Writing from Photographs

Self-Guided // 4-Week Online Course

Writing from Photographs

September 28 - October 25

It’s never too late to start!
Enrollment is OPEN through October 16th

Refund and cancellation policies


Often, as nonfiction writers, we start with memories and experiences. But memories are incomplete—and can be inaccurate. For this reason, writers sometimes rely on photographs as a type of evidence or proof. But a photograph is a complicated artifact—an object, an image, a memory touchstone. Drawing on photographs that intrigue, haunt, or prompt forgotten memories, this course explores the rich possibilities of the space between photograph and experience.

This course will offer new approaches for students at all levels—from those looking for inspiration to those working through an ongoing project. Plus, writing from photographs can make the work of starting a piece of writing easier by giving you a concrete moment to describe, reflect, and expand on. Description is both showing and telling, and the process of describing can open up a whole world.

Each week provides:

  • PROMPTS to help you generate new writing
  • INSPIRATION in the form of written lectures and a selection of readings

After the course closes, you will receive a zip file containing all of the course content and the work you developed during the month. You’ll also continue to be a member of our Creative Nonfiction Writing Classes' Community Page where you can share writings and calls for submissions, recommend books, and stay connected with other writers.

What we mean by "Self-Guided."


Complete Syllabus

Week 1: Images and Stories
You will look at how writers find stories in photographs and consider how the simplicity of a photo can prompt a variety of writerly paths. Through directed prompts, you will experiment with low-stakes writings inspired by your own photographs.

Week 2: Incomplete Photographs
A photograph is as much about what it captures as what it leaves out. In this second week, you will explore and experiment with turning a self-selected photograph from image to scene. In this process, you will consider the particulars of description, voice, and writerly presence.

Week 3: Finding the Focus
Like the focus of a camera lens, a personal essay asks us to make decisions about the details and subject of a piece. In this week, you will explore ways of using focused and nuanced details to expand and give depth to the writing you have been developing.

Week 4: Developing the Draft
Moving from image to draft is a process of development and refinement. This week will address how to find the strengths of the essay and approaches to revision.


Course designed by James Polchin. James Polichin is a Clinical Professor at New York University where he teaches in areas of creative nonfiction, LGBTQ history, and crime narratives. His writing has appeared in SlateTIMEHuffington Post UKCrime ReadsParis ReviewRolling StoneNewNextNowThe New InquiryLambda LiteraryThe Smart Set, Brevity, and the Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide. His book Indecent Advances: A Hidden History of True Crime and Prejudice Before Stonewall was a finalist for an Edgar Award and was named one of the best crime books of 2019 by CrimeReads. 


See schedule of all available classes »

PLEASE NOTE: It may take a little while for us to process your order and send you the link to the course. If you purchase the course before its start date and haven't received the link by the morning of September 29th, please email us at information@creativenonfiction.org. If you purchased the course on/after September 28th, please expect three days to process your registration.


Refund and Cancellation Policies

By 5pm EST, Sept 29th participants can request a refund or credit transfer.

After 5pm EST, Sept 29th no refunds or credit transfers can be issued.