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Photo (Visual) Essay of Social Problems
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Social Problems
Visual Methods
Visual Sociology
Photo Essay
Experiential Learning

How to Cite

Reid, Matt. 2016. “Photo (Visual) Essay of Social Problems”. TRAILS: Teaching Resources and Innovations Library for Sociology, November. Washington DC: American Sociological Association.


For this major experiential learning project, students are tasked with creating a photo
essay (or an essay which uses some other form of imagery) to illustrate and explicate a social
problem in our society. Students are free to pick whatever social problem they want for the
assignment and are encourage to be as creative and ambitious as...

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Subject Area(s):
Introduction to Sociology/Social Problems
Resource Type(s):
Assignment, Essay
Class Level(s):
Any Level
Class Size(s):

Usage Notes

It is important to consider where assigning this project would best fit in your course’s structure. In the Social Problems courses I teach, this project accounts for a large portion of a student’s grade and often requires a good deal of thought and mobilization of their part. Therefore, I recommend assigning the project rather early in the semester to...

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Learning Goals and Assessments

Learning Goal(s):

  1. Students will demonstrate their understanding of a selected social problem and how it manifests itself in their everyday lives.
  2. To acquaint students with visual research methods and empower them to collect, analyze, and display visual data.
  3. To enliven and enrich the creative capacities of students through an arts-based approach rather than a standard written essay.

Goal Assessment(s):

  1. Students create a photo essay using a series of original (self-produced) images which represent a selected social problem. Captioning of the images using sources and citations allows for an extrapolation and discussion of the larger social problem.
  2. Students should discuss their experiences producing the images, as well as any ethical considerations, in the "Project Explanation" section of the assignment.
  3. Students should discuss their thought processes concerning selecting and/or staging of the images they produce in the "Project Explanation" section of the assignment.

When using resources from TRAILS, please include a clear and legible citation.

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