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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 613-614

Photo Essay - The Moving Image and the Stirring Words

Editor, Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, Centre for Sight, Road No 2, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, Telangana, India

Date of Web Publication09-Oct-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Santosh G Honavar
Editor, Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, Centre for Sight, Road No 2, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad, Telangana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijo.IJO_2600_21

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How to cite this article:
Honavar SG. Photo Essay - The Moving Image and the Stirring Words. Indian J Ophthalmol Case Rep 2021;1:613-4

How to cite this URL:
Honavar SG. Photo Essay - The Moving Image and the Stirring Words. Indian J Ophthalmol Case Rep [serial online] 2021 [cited 2023 Mar 29];1:613-4. Available from: https://www.ijoreports.in/text.asp?2021/1/4/613/327890

“There's no need for fiction in medicine, the facts will always beat anything you can fancy.” - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Round the Red Lamp

Nice little stories in medicine eminently deserve to be narrated. Interesting stories centered on patients and their diseases could make indelible teaching points if illustrated with striking images. A Photo Essay is a form of scientific medical writing that uses rich images supporting a brief narration to provide a complete and an interesting portrayal of a clinical condition in a nutshell or highlight a diagnostic or a management pearl. Integrating the captivating power of storytelling with the lasting influence that images have, a Photo Essay is an empowered learning tool. Ophthalmology being an image-based medical specialty, Photo Essays can be extensively used to show and teach.

William Eugene Smith (1918-1978) is recognized as ̶S0;the single most important American photographer in the development of the editorial Photo Essay.”[1] Smith's works of relevance to medicine include his Photo Essay “Country Doctor”, commissioned by the Life magazine to chronicle Dr. Ernest Ceriani, a country doctor in Colorado, and his last work that uncovered Minamata disease, caused by industrial poisoning of water with mercury, resulting in congenital neurological deficit, which he stumbled upon and documented while retired in a small Japanese fishing village.[1]

The trend of using images to tell a story (Feature Photo) was started by the Archives of Ophthalmology in 1964 and it lasted for about 11 years.[2] It resurfaced in the form of an “Ophthalmic Photo Essay” in 1986.[3] Several ophthalmic journals (“Pictures and Perspectives” in Ophthalmology) continue to use this interesting format; however, the available slots are extremely limited. The Indian Journal of Ophthalmology initiated the “Photo Essay” section in 2012.[4] It moved to the sister journal Indian Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports in January 2021 where it currently thrives with numerous submissions and an engaging publication spectrum.

“It is an illusion that photos are made with the camera - they are made with the eye, heart, and head” – said Henri Cartier-Bresson. Photo Essays then are made with the eye, heart and head and encrusted a with smart logical narration. Visual storytelling in a Photo Essay typically has three elements complementing each other – the image, text, and the composition.[5],[6] An image is not simply to decorate – it is to be a refined and an evocative visual product - technically strong and aesthetically pleasing, well-focused, clear, clean, with good resolution, and centered on the area of interest (using the rule of thirds).[5] Captions should be brief but must explain the image to the extent that the image-caption unit becomes self-standing.[5] Text should provide the background and a context to the image, be concise, crisp, well-crafted and should tell a story that kindles new knowledge and unambiguously brings out the point of interest.[5] The composition should impartially help strike a perfect balance between the image and the text.[5] Both the image and the text should be ideally placed verso recto on the same page. If a composite image is used, then all the components should be of the same size, maintaining the basic symmetry. A concise and an emphatic concluding statement and a nice title to the Photo Essay add to the overall effect. [Table 1] shows the checklist for a contemporary Photo Essay.
Table 1: Checklist for a Photo Essay

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A Photo Essay brings the power of images to the art of storytelling and makes an engaging teaching tool. The Indian Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports is happy to invite you to create and contribute well-crafted Photo Essays for consideration for publication.

“Photography is a small voice, at best, but sometimes one photograph, or a group of them, can lure our sense of awareness.” – William Eugene Smith

  References Top

Eugene Smith W. Master of the Photo Essay. Available from: https://www.magnumphotos.com/theory-and-practice/w-eugene-smith-master-of-the-photo-essay. [Last accessed on 2021 Oct 07].  Back to cited text no. 1
Cogan DG. Feature photo. Arch Ophthalmol 1964;71:1.  Back to cited text no. 2
Goldberg MF. The ophthalmic photo essay: Inception of a series. Arch Ophthalmol 1986;104:985–6.  Back to cited text no. 3
Natarajan S. Introduction of photo essay. Indian J Ophthalmol 2012;60:171-3.  Back to cited text no. 4
  [Full text]  
Crowder J, Cartwright E. Thinking through the Photo Essay: Observations for Medical Anthropology. Med Anthropol Theory 2021;8:1-3.  Back to cited text no. 5
Quinn GP, Albrecht TL, Mahan C, Bell-Ellison BA, Akintobi TH, Reynolds B, et al. The photo essay: A visual research method for educating obstetricians and other health care professionals. Qualitative Rep 2006:11:229-50.  Back to cited text no. 6


  [Table 1]


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