Each issue of Outback magazine includes a ‘photo essay’ article which offers six pages of highly saturated colour photographs on glossy paper. Many libraries subscribe to this publication – students could look through several issues to find the most relevant related material. In ISSUE 90 Aug/Sep 2013, the photo essay titled ‘An Eagle Eye’ provides stunning shots of a wedge-tailed eagle family taken by Charles Davis. These images, explanatory paragraph and captions closely relate to elements in the prescribed prose fiction text Vertigo, and could also be analysed for the short stories of Henry Lawson.
Large photographs cover a double page spread, and written text is typically overlaid in contrast with the background. Black borders enhance the colour shots and contain captions. In this essay, the parenting skills of the eagles are captured which links effectively with the Worley’s struggle to deal with their loss. Luke and Anna share their lives with the haunting apparition of ‘boy’. Images of birds are scattered throughout the narrative, symbolically representing mysterious aspects of nature and Luke’s emotional recovery.
In their analysis, students should consider the specific metalanguage of photography and/or visual literacy and make notes on different features such as:
- colour and/or black and white
- composition: rule of thirds, position or placement of the subject/object
- foreground and background
- angles or shots, such as close up, extreme close up, wide shot …
- special effects
It is also important to consider the audience, purpose and context of the text and discuss whether there are shared values and attitudes, or a disconnect, contrast or juxtaposition with the prescribed text. It is reasonable to comment on the shared aspects as well as those that differ.
Students should also consider the emotional impact of these images, and how the bird’s behaviours are documented across the pages. It could help to develop a word bank to broaden vocabulary and increase the opportunity to include evaluative language in response writing. Words such as majestic, regal and powerful suggest positive qualities that Davis has captured in this selection of images.
For related material, students should be able to write two or three analytical paragraphs. One approach for a photo essay could be to write half a paragraph outlining the key ideas and concepts of the text, including information on the composer and subjects then choose two or three images to analyse in detail over the remaining paragraphs.
While the family oriented photographs may be best suited to Vertigo, links can be made with the determined care and concern displayed by Lawson in The Drover’s Wife. Wide shots showcasing the landscape could also be compared with the images explored In a Dry Season.
Finally, students also need to discuss the language used in the text, such as colloquial (with examples) rather than focus solely on the photographs.
Find out more about the RM Williams OUTBACK magazine