e-Lit Resource
Photo Novel

A photo-novel is published as a sequential story made of photographs or film stills, with bubbles of text for dialogue and narration. The earliest form of the photo-novel, the cine-roman or film-novel, appeared in post-war Italy as serialized film adaptations in women’s magazines centered around celebrity culture and melodrama. In the few years before the television era, the photo-novel brought cinema language to print as original photo-comic strips, drawn novelizations of movies, photo-comic instructional manuals or advertisements and long-form photo-journalism. Jan Baetens argues that the photo-novel, because it is a cinematic form that emerged in the publication rhythm of print, is its own medium of expression, with unique automatisms, and not simply a temporary hybridization of comics and film. In the 1980’s, artists such as Duane Michals, Marie-Françoise Plissart, James Coleman, Sol LeWitt expanded the formal language and content possibilities of the photo-novel. In the digital era, the photo-novel continues to evolve as an expressive medium in electronic literature, digital art, blogs, web-serialized comics, digital storytelling, family albums and education material.