Your next major essay in this course will be a visual analysis essay. In this essay, you will be expected to apply the concepts covered in Units 1-4 as you analyze an image to show some of its larger meanings. This includes knowledge of the writing process, rhetorical situation, formal register, essay structure, and visual analysis. This essay also requires you to cite at least one credible source. Due Dates Refer to the assignment calendar for due dates. Remember, peer reviews are graded separately and have their own due dates in the assignment calendar. Purpose and Learning Objectives In this assignment, you should practice analyzing visual texts, using the writing process, and developing a well-constructed essay in formal register. The essay should show how an analysis of the visual components of an image leads to a better understanding of the image. Process for Completion The first step in this process will be to choose an image. Browse the images available through the Gordon Parks Foundation Archives. The link is available near the end of Unit
3. Choose an image that you find engaging and that you feel offers ample opportunity for analysis. Some images are interesting, but they’re difficult to talk about. The image you choose will be the subject of your essay. After you have chosen your image, you should engage in some prewriting activities using the ideas and terms presented in Unit 4. First, take stock of your initial reactions to the image. What emotions did you feel as you first looked at the photograph? What aspects about the image lead viewers to react a certain way? Before you begin writing, you will want to perform some research. This assignment requires at least one source (print or web). If you’re choosing an image about the Civil Rights Movement, you might want to research the movement. If you’re choosing an image about Flavio in Rio de Janeiro, you might want to research how Gordon Parks met Flavio. You’re welcome to use more than one source, but be sure to keep track of the information you gain from your source so that you can cite the source appropriately. Next, analyze the image by looking closely at the content, framing, composition, focus, color, lighting and context. What interesting or unique features do you notice about the image? What is the cultural or historical context of the image? You should record all of these activities. Some of them will become important pieces of your final draft. Next, it will be time to find your focus and begin generating a working thesis statement. For this assignment, your thesis will make a claim about the meaning of the image. In other words, what message does the image communicate?
Remember, every image tells a story and an image may tell a different story depending on who is looking. Once you have decided what idea or story the image communicates to you, you will need to explain how content, framing, focus, color, angle and lighting come together to create that story or convey meaning. Your thesis will be more specific if you show which visual elements your essay discusses and what they do to create meaning. So, an example thesis might be something like this: “Through content, framing, and angle, the image demonstrates how segregation affected not only adults but also the children of black families in the South.” After completing the previous steps, it will be time to begin drafting your essay. The following outline might help you to structure your initial draft. Introduction: Identify and describe the image. It is so very important that you identify the image very clearly. Use the name of the photographer and the image: for example, you might say, “In Gordon Parks’s photograph titled “American Gothic,” a woman stands in front of a flag with a broom in her hand and a mop in the background.” In the introduction, you might show why the image is important or relevant or provide some background information about it. Please embed the image into the body of your essay somewhere so that the readers can see it. One way to embed the image is to put your mouse on the image and right-click, and then select “copy.” Next, go to your document and right-click on your document, and then select “paste.”
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