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Storytelling

Thank you for joining us for the inaugural IMPACT online exhibition, a new project exploring the blog medium as a venue for photographic work. RESOLVE is excited to be hosting this experimental new project.

By clicking on the links below the IMPACT logo, you can move through the exhibition, viewing galleries of images, all related to the idea of “Outside Looking In.” Each “gallery” will include a series of images a photographer has uploaded to their blog along with this same IMPACT logo.

At any time you can click on the IMPACT logo to be taken to back to this post, where all the participating photographers are listed. (The “next” button actually takes you to a random gallery, so keep clicking if you get a repeat.)

By allowing viewers to move between different photographer’s online galleries, we hope to gain exposure for their work while providing a multifaceted visual study of the chosen topic.

We also wanted to remind viewers of the important role photographers play around the world, so we asked participants to share images from a project where they had an impact or were impacted themselves. If inclined, they have also included a link to an organization that they believe is having a positive impact on the world. Please help us increase this project’s IMPACT by sharing it with your community.

Enjoy!
The IMPACT Team: Yumi Goto, Miki Johnson, Paul O’Sullivan, Jeremy Wade Shockley

Gazi Nafis Ahmed: Inner Face

Daniel Beltra: Tropical Deforestation

Fabiano Busdraghi: Physics, adventure, poetry and photography in Antarctica

Shiho Fukada: No Retirement Plan

Sean Gallagher: Desertification Unseen

Bill Hatcher: New Zealand Masters of Sport

Ed Kashi: A “Fady” in Madagascar

Michael Kircher: Adventure for Healing

Pete Marovich: A Look Inside the Old Order

Sara Mayti: The Sound of a 4.16

Thomas Peschak: Saving the Most Important Fish In the Sea

Ian Shive: American National Parks

Jeremy Wade Shockley: The Mountain Kingdom

Art Wolfe: The Ganges River

Rachel Wolfe: Jamaica

Josh Maready’s multimedia portrait of an Inwood shop owner, who the photographer interviewed shortly before he died of cancer, is the essence of what a personal project can achieve. Josh usually shoots fashion and portraits, but in the end it was this documentary project that helped re-energize him about his own work — and helped keep a special person and his stories alive through his images.

Name: Josh Maready
Website: joshmaready.com
Age: 30
Location: NYC

What kind of photography do you specialize in?
I shoot mostly fashion and portraiture, but I feel really connected to photojournalism and documentary. I like capturing pieces of history that otherwise might have been lost or forgotten.

Personal project name and short description
Pic-A-Pet: This is a slideshow and interview with Mr. Madonna, the owner of a small plant and pet store named “Pic-A-Pet” in my hood in Inwood, at the very top of Manhattan.

When and why did you start it?
My old apartment was right above where the super put all of the trash overnight before he put it out on the street, and because of it there were always some stray flies that found their way in. I got pissed and went on a search to find some Venus fly traps that led me to Pic-A-Pet. I loved that place ever since I first walked in.

I have soft spot for old stores — the dirtier and more cluttered the better. Those places are so full of stories and have so much soul, you know?  I instantly wanted to take pictures of that place and hear some of those stories, so I grabbed my camera and voice recorder and sat down with the owner, Mr, Madonna.  Sadly, he had Stage 4 cancer and died a couple of weeks after our interview. It’s pretty amazing to think that because of the interview I did, a few of his stories will always be alive. That’s powerful stuff.

Mr. Madonna by Josh Maready

Mr. Madonna by Josh Maready

Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far?
From this story, I like two images the most: a portrait of Mr. Madonna smiling and a picture of his cluttered cash register that he told me he hasn’t used since the first day he opened. In the portrait, maybe it’s the smile he’s wearing, even though I knew he was in pain, or maybe the sunlight hitting the dust on his glasses. The register, to me, is a perfect summary of everything I love about old stores.

What has been the most challenging thing about the project?
The most challenging part was the editing. I sat down and talked with Mr. Madonna for almost an hour and a half. So taking all of those stories and condensing them into 10 minutes was tough.

What has been the most rewarding thing about it?
Just what I said earlier — to know that I was a part of keeping someone’s legacy alive is a huge honor.  Mr. Madonna was loved by so many people. And even though this is a small and unworthy tribute for such a good man, at least it’ll give people a taste of what he was like.

In your ideal world, where would this project end up?
I hope this ends up in front of the eyes of people who appreciate the stories of the unknown heros of the world as much as I do.

Do you recommend personal projects to other photographers, and why?
Totally. I try to find time to fuel the creative fire by shooting things that really mean something to me. This project was time consuming and finding free time is hard. Freeing up time is usually hard to justify. But to look back and feel like I’ve done something good for the world is worth it.

Wow – you wanna hear something weird? Right now as i’m writing this I just got an email from someone who had known Mr. Madonna. They told me they just watched the slideshow/interview and then poured their heart out about Mr. Madonna and told me a few of their own stories about him. That’s it, man! That’s why I love this stuff! That’s good fuel for the fire and motivation for the next few stories I have in mind…

Former BBC radio producer Benjamin Chesterton and photojournalist David White, as the multimedia production team duckrabbit, build high-quality multimedia pieces, provide insights on their blog, and help photographers through multimedia training sessions. Once a month on RESOLVE, Ben highlights a multimedia piece and explains why it works. This month, he’s been working overtime, and it might have finally caught up with him.
The front page of Phil Toledano's Days With My Father microsite.

The front page of Phil Toledano's "Days With My Father" microsite.

During a recent talk at Amnesty International, I freaked out the organizers a bit by suggesting that the web was not the best place to see images. They had booked me for a debate in which I was supposed to be arguing for the greatness of the digital revolution, in which we can see everything for free, all of the time.

In the last year I’ve looked at so much multimedia and taken in so much photography that I’ve completely lost a sense of perspective and awe in what I’m looking at. It’s slightly pathetic,  but the critical, sometimes cynical eye I’ve developed keeps me from getting too close, too intimate with anything I look at. Before, I used to just enjoy looking at an image, a simple but wonderful pleasure — now I consume it and spit it out the other side, like a wine taster who sucked on too much vinegar.

“I’m worn out on multimedia and its endless possibility.”

At my Amnesty talk I spoke about getting up one morning to find a book come in the post from Joseph Rodriguez. It was a great moment. One to be treasured. Our lives touched, his work seeping into mine. I felt energized.

But right now I feel like slamming the door on multimedia, I’m worn out on its endless possibility. Exhausted.

So what can I offer this month? Two things.

One to illustrate a point and the other because when I look at it, the work it transcends all of my exhaustion and reminds me what it is to be a human, to love and to lose and also to be lost.

Phillip Toledano‘s “Days With My Father” is a masterpiece. Its a love letter that has nothing to do with any of us but that is written in such a way that it could have come from the pages of any of our lives. Its a gift and it proves that I was wrong, the web can be the best place to experience photography. The experience can be utterly transformative. No more words needed — just check it out.

I came across the the second multimedia feature I want to flag via Twitter. It’s astonishing. A panoramic image of a Nairobi street that takes the YouTube video six minutes to travel down. It comes from the book Trading Places, The Merchants of Nairobi by Steve Bloom.  It held my attention for at least a minute before I got bored and moved on. Had I come across this image in a gallery, though, I would have spent a lot longer examining and re-examining it.

So maybe I was right in the first place and the web is not the best place to view images. What do you think?

Considering that today is World AIDS Day, this seemed like the perfect time to highlight a new book from photographer Karen Ande, Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa. Although hardly the first person to document this topic, Karen’s emphasis on telling positive stories is unusual. And her technique presents a hard — but important — question for documentary photographers: Do too many images of suffering make people feel helpless to improve things?
©Karen Ande

These three women are members of a granny support group that meets weekly to discuss issues and solve problems related to caring for their many young charges. ©Karen Ande

Miki Johnson: Tell me about the book you just released with Ruthann Richter, Face to Face: Children of the AIDS Crisis in Africa. What was the impetus of this project and what were you hoping to achieve with it?

Karen Ande: This book represents the culmination of seven years of work. The project began in 2002 when I was traveling in Kenya with my husband and friends. Our tour guide asked me if I’d like to visit an orphanage she had opened in the town of Naivasha and photograph the children, whose parents had died of AIDS.

I agreed to do it, thinking it would be a one-time visit that might result in a few shots she could use for fundraising. I did not realize that the children would charm me and that their survival hung in such a delicate balance. The orphanage ran out of rice the day I was there.

We left them with some money for food and I eventually went home and began to print the photographs. When I saw the images emerge in the developing tray I realized that I had an opportunity and a decision to make. I could choose to become involved in this issue or not. I chose to get involved, to reach out to nonprofits who were already supporting projects, to make multiple trips to document this issue. It has taken an enormous amount of time and personal finances, but I have never looked back.

©Karen Ande

Vannah is only 15 years old but is caring for five younger brothers and sisters after their parent's death from AIDS. ©Karen Ande

I am driven by this issue — 12 million children have been orphaned by AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. There is little infrastructure to care for the children, but many local people whom I have met through NGO’s have creative viable projects that make a difference in these children’s lives. I hope this book will convince people to take a close look at the children I’ve met and begin to care enough to try to help them.

MJ: You’ve said that when you started photographing it was important to you to focus on the positive, things are getting better and people who are making a difference. Why was this so important to you?

KA: People do not hang around to be depressed. The media overexposes us to images of suffering I think, consistently giving us two messages: 1) there is really nothing one person can do to affect these overwhelming problems, and 2) money donated to Africa will be diverted by corrupt governments and aid agencies and never get to the people who need it.

In fact there is a great deal one person can do if they know how. If you donate to organizations working with in-country activists who know and understand their communities’ needs, the money is not wasted. In fact it is often the best way to help, as these projects are generally successful and sustainable. We list many NGO’s in our book that support these types of projects. More »

When RESOLVE was just a fledgling, we ran two posts from Greg Gibson titled “It’s never too late to start a personal project.” Since then we’ve seen so many great personal projects, and heard about even more that are still just ideas. By highlighting our faves in this new “It’s Personal” column, we hope to encourage more photographers to turn their great idea into a great personal project.
Pronghorn antelope in western Wyoming. ©Joe Riis

Pronghorn antelope in western Wyoming.

Name: Joe Riis
Website:
www.joeriis.com
Age:
25
Location:
Moose, Wyoming right now and moving to Bijou Hills, South Dakota, early in 2010. I want to live in a cabin on the prairie.
Full-time job:
Wildlife photographer and videographer

Personal project name and short description
Pronghorn Passage, a conservation photography project that focuses on the Grand Teton National Park pronghorn migration. Each fall a herd of 400 pronghorn antelope migrate from Grand Teton National Park down into the Upper Green River Basin of Wyoming, a total round-trip journey of 300 miles. This migration is the second longest overland mammal migration in the western hemisphere (after caribou in Alaska). The migration corridor is being squeezed down by residential development and mineral extraction on the private and public lands that it crosses. Pronghorn Passage is a collaborative project between myself and essayist Emilene Ostlind.

When and why did you start it?
The project was actually Emilene’s idea; she approached me and wanted to work together. She is a writer, and was just finishing up working at National Geographic Magazine and as Steve Winter’s assistant on his snow leopard story in India. She was coming back home to Wyoming to write a selection of essays about the pronghorn migration and wanted me to photograph it. At the time, I was just finishing up a 2-year conservation photography project on environmental threats to the Missouri River. I was ready to start photographing something new, and the pronghorn project, which had never been photographed before, seemed like a great idea.

I started researching and filling out grant applications in November 2007, and started my fieldwork in May 2008, the day after I graduated from the University of Wyoming with a bachelor’s in Wildlife Biology. We got the project fully funded through the National Geographic Expeditions Council, The Banff Centre, University of Wyoming, North American Nature Photographers Association, Grand Teton National Park, and Patagonia the clothing company. I feel very fortunate to have received so much financial backing for the project, which has allowed me to focus all my efforts on fieldwork.

©Joe Riis
I am still surprised by the support we got, but the bottom line is that the pronghorn story had all the elements to a good wildlife story. A small herd of pronghorn migrating a super long distance over an incredible landscape, under threat, that had never been photographed before — plus we were two young Wyomingites who wanted to live with pronghorn. The reason is hadn’t been photographed before is because it takes a huge time commitment, at least a full year. No one knew exactly where they were migrating so I had to do field biology before I could photograph it. Because most of my work is by camera trap, I have to know exactly where the animals are moving.

Do you have a particular image you are especially drawn to so far? More »

Former BBC radio producer Benjamin Chesterton and photojournalist David White, as the multimedia production team duckrabbit, build high-quality multimedia pieces, provide insights on their blog, and help photographers through multimedia training sessions. Once a month on RESOLVE, Ben and/or David highlight and explain a multimedia piece that breaks a “rule,” uses a new technique, or creatively solves a common problem.

I’m writing this from a small hotel in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where duckrabbit and the Bangladeshi photographer Sheikh Rajibul Islam have been working on a documentary about the effects of climate change on this beautiful country.

If the scientists’ predictions are right, up to 20 million Bangladeshi’s will become environmental refugees in the next 50 years. There is no bigger long-term story than the havoc man is wreaking on nature.

It would be easy for us at duckrabbit to reduce our stories about Bangladesh to the most brutal, the most shocking. This is always a temptation for photojournalists looking for the money shot, for their World Press award, but it’s a cheap and ultimately destructive way to capture the world because it reduces people to the status of victims.

At the BBC I used to produce Costing The Earth, their flagship environmental documentary programme. We always strived to tell a balanced story, beyond emotion, because understanding is more important than shock, and debate is more powerful than bashing someone over the head with a message.

Adam Westbrook, a multimedia journalist and blogger, expressed this point brilliantly in a post about a controversial video advertisement by the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontieres:

“We want true stories … but we also want balance.”

“We want true stories, and we want them as gritty as the real world is. But we also want balance — and we recognize a third-world-cliché when we see it.”

There are plenty of weak multimedia pieces about the environment out there that suffer from the same clichéd black-and-white photography and lack of balance in their storytelling, but let’s not blow any more CO2 on their two-dimensional approach. Instead I want to point you to a visually stunning and deeply thoughtful piece of work by Toronto Star photographer Lucas Oleniuk.

Airsick: An Industrial Devolution is designed to persuade us that the earth is slowly drowning in CO2. Part of why it works so well is that, instead of focusing on apocalyptic images of the developing world, the piece is rooted in the familiar, in the industrialized world. I can’t watch this and not feel part of the problem. That is powerful multimedia.

(duckrabbit would like to thank the CBA for funding their recent Bangladesh trip.)

September 28th, 2009

Flip Out: A video chat with Mark Wallace

Posted by liveBooks

One of the best parts of my job is hanging out and talking with photographers — about photography, but also about the shifting media landscape, companies that are trying cool new things, technology that makes our life more efficient yet more complicated, and, of course, art of all kinds that inspires us.

That’s what I was doing yesterday (Sunday) in Union Square Park near our liveBooks office in San Francisco. If you don’t know Mark, check out his popular site, blog, and Facebook and Twitter streams. If you do know Mark, you’re probably not surprised that he asked to do a quick iPhone video while we were talking. I thought I should Flip video him at the same time — hope you enjoy the result as much as we did.

After that we headed to the office to talk some more and Mark made a video of me talking about RESOLVE a little more in depth. At lunch we were discussing how hard (but necessary) it is for photographers to stop focusing solely on the value of their images — today much more value is placed on education, audience engagement, and especially storytelling, as Mark explained and I asked him to rehash for the Flip.

Mark and I had not met before yesterday, so it was a pleasure to find out he is just as kind, helpful, and well-informed as his online presence suggests.

I also hung out with two innovators I’ve known for a bit longer on Saturday: David Alan Harvey, who has very exciting things in store for burn, his online photography magazine; and Phil Toledano, who I was ecstatic to hear has found a publisher for his Days With My Father project. Finally, here are few of the funner things Mark and I chatted about:

  • The Photographer: A graphic novel that tells the story of photojournalist Didier Lefévre entering Afghanistan in 1986 and incorporating hundreds of his black-and-white photographs from the trip.
  • Closer: Elinor Carucci’s stunning book, which was recently re-released (and happens to be sitting in my cubicle.)
  • Thousand Journals: A project that sent 1,000 blank journals out into the world, asking people to add to them and then pass them along. They are tracked at this website.
  • Time Code: A 2000 film directed by Mike Figgis that consists of four simultaneous movies played in a grid.
  • Radio Lab – Moments: An attempt by WNYC’s brilliant science-based radio show to visually capture the idea of a “moment.

When Ed came to Stanford a few months ago for an Aurora Forum on the What Matters book, I was reminded how unsatisfactory the term “documentary photographer” is when applied to someone like him. Years before multimedia became a buzzword, Ed and his wife Julie Winokur were leading the way into “multi-platform” storytelling, including exhibitions, books, websites, videos, multimedia, and educational programs. Ed explains how they are now exploring “feedback loops” between documentarians, their audience, and the subjects, so that the people in the photos and the people looking at them contribute as much to a story as the person behind the camera.
Ikpokiri is a poor community in the oil rich Niger Delta. The only school in this small community lay in ruins due to flooding and lack of care.

Ikpokiri is a poor community in the oil rich Niger Delta. The only school in this small community lay in ruins due to flooding and lack of care. ©Ed Kashi

It’s not enough anymore to create work for one media platform, especially if you intend to raise awareness about issues or are trying to effect change. Now when I create a new project as a photojournalist or with Talking Eyes Media, the non-profit production company I founded with my wife, Julie Winokur, we have our eyes on expanded opportunities for distribution: the web, social media, books, exhibitions, T.V., lectures, workshops, academic applications, and NGO collaborations. There are undoubtedly even more I haven’t thought, of and we’re always looking for new options.

To work in this multi-platform landscape, you must develop skills beyond still photography. You should at least be proficient at gathering and editing audio, and preferably you’d also understand video and be able to handle post production to produce a finished piece.

Since Julie and I founded Talking Eyes seven years ago, we have developed a process that fluidly moves from proposal, field work, and post production to outreach and followup. With the Niger Delta work, we’re learning as we go. As usual, we’re applying for grants, but now they are in areas I’ve never ventured into before, attempting to receive funding support for educational outreach programs.

One small example of this can be seen on my blog where we posted papers written by history students at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where my book was required reading. They were asked to pick three images and write about them, and we posted a handful of their papers with the students’ consent.

Unemployed local youths hang out around the Etelebou Flow Station in the Niger Delta. ©Ed Kashi

Unemployed local youths hang out around the Etelebou Flow Station in the Niger Delta. ©Ed Kashi

This is an important aspect of multi-platform storytelling: It can easily be disseminated to a wide variety of audiences. It also provides the means for those audiences to talk back with the photographer/producer about the work. It is exciting to being able to create a groundswell of interest in this way, by building a feedback loop between the documentarian, their subject, and the audience.

I am currently writing grants to fund a broader implementation of this feedback loop idea (really it’s a wiki, but I wanted to avoid that term). My vision is to create a new website, or augment the existing one from liveBooks, so that students in the U.S. and Nigeria (or anywhere for that matter), who are using teaching materials I’ve created around oil and environmental issues, can contribute their own comments, information, pictures, and videos to the site. So a student in Port Harcourt, in the Niger Delta, would study these issues using the texts, stills, and video from my work there (along with expanded teaching materials we plan to include in a teaching DVD) and then do his or her own reporting or just contribute personal materials to the site. In this way, they can correct, augment, and develop my work to broaden, deepen, and personalize it. More »

Sean Gallagher, a photojournalist living and working in China, won a travel grant from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting in February for his work on the country’s desertification. From a whirlwind trip to complete his coverage, Sean created several posts, slideshows, and the multimedia piece below. Sean explains how important it was to edit as he traveled to check in with his themes and cut down on post-production time. Don’t miss his earlier posts about finding and planning in-depth stories.

(Click on the four arrows in the lower right corner to expand to full screen.)

I returned from my six weeks of travel with about 2,500 images; I have never been a prolific shooter, probably because I started out shooting slide film and knowing the cost of each frame. Throughout my trip, I made a point of downloading and categorizing my images as I made them. To keep all the files in order, I created folders for each location I visited with RAW and JPEG sub-folders.

Since I was traveling for such a long time, I knew it was imperative to keep on top of my images so I didn’t face a nightmare editing session when I returned home. My organizational efforts also allowed me to keep track of where I was with the story, making edits in the evenings, following how my narrative was developing.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, which funded this project, asked me to write weekly blog posts about my travel experiences. This discipline helped me enormously because it made me stop and think about the importance of each stage of my trip. This further helped me keep track of my narrative and helped me stay focused on the main themes I wanted to explore through the work.

On my return to my home in Beijing, I found that my meticulous filing in the field meant my editing was half done already. I could go straight to post-processing the images and then seriously think about edits for publishing outlets. More »

Living in Hollywood, there is one particular phrase that I dread hearing more than drunk sorority girls at a karaoke bar: “I’m working on a screenplay.” For years — no, decades — I clucked around Los Angeles smug as hell that I could avoid that ultimate Hollywood cliché because nothing I did as a photographer had anything to do with screenwriting.

Even shooting stills on movie sets, I didn’t really need to know the story. I just had to take good pictures and stay out of the way. But with video squeezing it’s way into photography more and more, photographers no longer have the luxury of ignoring story structure.

For a while now, the novelty of photographers shooting video has allowed us to get by with beautifully shot vignettes like Vincent Laforet’s Reverie or Alexx Henry’s fabulous living one sheets. But as video evolves in the photography industry, more is going to be expected from us. I strongly suggest you educate yourself now so you’ll be ahead of the curve when your clients ask you for video later. (Mr. Laforet saw this coming and is now producing a motion picture shot with the Canon 5D Mark II.)

Furthermore, understanding narrative can be an important skill for any photographer, even those not rushing off to film their first 5D movie. There is a skewed presumption out there that screen writing is easy. It’s not. It just seems easy because the three-act structure of a film is easy to grasp. But as with everything that is magical to watch, the genius is in the subtleties. More »

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