Visualizing Economic Inequality

This project asks you to use your online public intellectual Instagram account to post a series of photographs that visualize class inequality.  This means that your photos must capture something about what class is, as sociologists define it, but also must convey inequality.  The goal of this assignment is to develop your skills as visual sociologists and documentary photographers, to get you to look closely and carefully at the world around you, and to say something in/to the world about what you see. You will be posting two contrasting images each week for ten weeks and each week will have its own theme that the photos must illustrate in some way.

Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6
Space Stuff Beauty Fear Work
Week 7 Week 8 Week 9 Week 10 Week 11
Boundaries Choice Security Leisure Motion

Principles of Effective Photograph Composition

Here are some common principles for composing effective photographs from

  • Use the rule of thirds—imagine breaking the image up into horizontal and vertical thirds and placing key elements you want to draw attention to along those intersections
  • Try to balance the weight of the objects in the image
  • Notice the lines that lead a viewer’s eyes into the image
  • Look for patterns or symmetry
  • Compose the image from interesting viewpoints (not just eye-level)
  • Try to create a sense of depth
  • Use objects in the environment to frame the main subject of the image
  • Consider cropping tightly around the subject to focus our attention

This is another excellent guide to composition:

Ethical Guidelines for Photographing People and Places

  • As photographers we must always be respectful with our subjects – whether they are people, places or things. Do not alter or disturb anything you take a photograph of. Please always remain respectful.
  • You CAN take photographs of people who are outdoors and in public places without their permission.
  • You CANNOT take photographs of people who are in private places (such as malls) without obtaining their permission (On Catalyst, you will find release forms for the 1500 Stories project that you should use in this case).
  • DO NOT take close-up photographs of individuals unless you have asked for their permission in advance (Use the release forms posted on Catalyst).
  • DO NOT take photographs of situations or circumstances that would be intrusive, embarrassing to anyone, or create false impressions.

Photograph Format Guidelines

  • The photograph must follow the ethical guidelines above
  • The photograph must be visually compelling
  • The photograph itself must say something about class even without the caption
  • The two photographs must demonstrate economic inequality in their contrast between one another
  • The two photographs must in some way address the week’s theme
  • The photograph must be submitted to your online Instagram account by …….

Caption Guidelines

  • Your caption must include four hashtags: #1500stories, #economicinequality, #publicsociology, the THEME for that week’s photos and our class hashtag. You may use additional hashtags as you see fit—pay attention to how others on Instagram use hashtags to increase their following.  Remember you MUST include the class hashtag in order to get credit for your photos.
  • Your caption should provide 2-4 sentences that educate the audience about class inequality as it applies to the theme you photographed. Use as models the ways in which the other digital storytelling feeds we are following on Instagram provide context and information.


You must post 20 photographs over the course of the term and this project is worth …..% of your grade in …...  They will be evaluated on the degree to which you meet the photograph format and caption guidelines.

How to Contribute Your Work to 1500 Stories

If you would also like to submit your photographs to the 1500 Stories project, you must submit your IMAGES as well as RELEASE FORMS, both for yourself to allow the 1500 stories project to exhibit your images and, if applicable, for the subjects of your photographs.  You should submit these electronically either by e-mail it to or submit it to the 1500 Stories Dropbox.  Please name your photographs using the following format: yourlastnamefirstname_themeforthatphoto_date.  Please name your release form using the following format: yourlastnamefirstname_authorreleaseform.

All work must be your own.  How can you live with yourself otherwise?