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June 10th, 2013

PDN Video Pick: Open Lanes

In his short video “Open Lanes,” photographer Stephen M. Keller captures an honest, revealing portrait of a bowling alley owner struggling to keep his business alive. The video, with audio and visuals that are equally compelling, was one of several noteworthy projects by participants at the 2013 NPPA Multimedia Immersion workshop at Syracuse University last month. The five-day workshop was a hands-on course in multimedia story telling and production. Participants were given names of subjects and contact information, then turned loose to figure out the subject’s story, and gather the audio and video required to tell it. Coaches with experience in multimedia production helped the workshop participants shape and edit their stories. (PDN editor David Walker participated in the workshop at the invitation of organizers).

 

Stephen Keller – Open Lanes – NPPA Immersion 2013 from Multimedia Immersion on Vimeo.

PDN: What was the assignment you got at the workshop?
Stephen Keller: It wasn’t detailed at all. It just said, Solvay Recreation Alleys and it gave a phone number. I called and talked to the [owner] for 20 or 30 minutes about the bowling alley, and what was going on with it. He seemed like a good guy who loved bowling, and the bowling industry, but he was also in tough times and I thought [the bowling alley] might be in some financial trouble. But he was a normal guy who you want to see succeed.

PDN: How in-depth was your pre-production interview?
SK: I was trying to get as much information as I could, to get an idea where I wanted to go with the story. I wanted to have idea what I might want to look for, what I might want to shoot, what I might want to ask in the interview. I like to preview [stories], to see if they will be worthwhile. It’s also a way to build rapport and get [the subject] familiar with me, even before the camera is there.

PDN: Were you concerned he might tell you the whole story in the pre-production interview, and then be less enthusiastic about telling it on tape because he’d already told you his story?
SK: Not really, because he was a guy who seemed like he liked to talk. I think pre-production interviews are a good thing. I usually do the regular [recorded] interview after all the footage is shot. So I’m familiar with the subject and the story, and I’m going to ask the same questions multiple times in different parts of the interview so I get it clean.

PDN: Did you have a clear idea of the story narrative in your head before you got there, and if so, what was it?
SK: A little bit–it was kind of like an economy story. I wanted to go in that direction because everyone can kind of relate to that. When I got there, it looked pretty much the way I imagined, but I was wondering: how do I shoot an empty bowling alley? That’s boring, so how do I make it visually interesting?

During the pre-production interview I got information about when there were likely to be customers, but when I arrived there was just nobody there. For the three hours that I was there, there has nothing happening, so I went back the next day to [film] some actual customers. I ended up shooting with people there, and without people there, and I tried to get the same angles, somewhat. I should have put marks on the floor to put the tripod in the same spot, to make jump cuts between those shots [with and without people]. I [also] showed that the clientele is [disappearing] by filming the senior citizens who bowl there.

PDN: Did you do the interview after all the shooting was finished?
SK: We did the interview at the end of the first day [after] nobody came in. We were in the same room together for three or four hours, just us. [Your subject] kind of gets familiar with the camera that way.

PDN: What were the biggest challenges you had?
SK: With this piece, because I’m more experienced shooter, I wanted to focus on the parts of my skill set that aren’t the best. My main thing was to focus on getting best interview I’ve ever gotten.

PDN: Your subject’s struggle and sense of resignation comes across so well in the interview. How did you get him to let his guard down?
SK: It was just being around each other. It was being up front, and building that rapport. He opened up, and was the kind of guy who wouldn’t hide anything [anyway]. I also noted his responses to the questions, and returned to some of them to get him to elaborate more.
[Workshop coach] Evan [Vucci's] “dumb dog” technique really helped. When the subject finished up a sentence, I would give him the “dumb dog” look and he would keep going, and elaborate further without [my] even having to [ask a follow-up question]. [Editor’s note: With the “dumb dog” technique, an interviewer tilts his head and raises his eyebrows inquisitively as soon as the subject finishes responding to a question. The key is to make the gesture without saying a word. The purpose is to prompt the subject to continue talking, and it often leads the subject to give an unguarded response to the question at hand.]

PDN: Was it a challenge to edit the story?
SK:  There were so may great quotes. The hardest part was cutting [them]. As Evan said to me, “You have to kill your babies” [i.e., the quotes that you love the most] to tell a great story about this guy. One thing [the subject] said that didn’t make it into the film was that he was an avid bowler, but he’s had a knee injury and hasn’t been able to bowl for a few years.

(See all the 2013 Multimedia Immersion videos here, and more videos by Keller here)

Related story:
PDN Video Pick: Our Own Little World

June 5th, 2013

MoMA’s Photography Curator on Underappreciated Photographers

Quentin Bajac, who was appointed chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, gave an interview to critic and author Richard B. Woodward, published last week in the Wall Street Journal. Bajac talked about his ideas for future acquisitions for the permanent collection.

“Artists that he thinks the museum has wrongly ignored or undercollected include Luigi Ghirri,” Woodward writes.  “Among Americans, he cites James Welling as an ‘important’ figure underappreciated in the past by MoMA; and Mr. Bajac was ‘shocked’ it [MoMA] had not a single print by the photojournalist Susan Meiselas.” Bajac also tells Woodward he’d like the permanent collection to represent more Japanese, African and Latin America photographers. (Yes, MoMA’s holdings seem pretty provincial, especially compared to those of other institutions.)

During the interview with Woodward, Bajac also touched on ideas for new shows (note how Martin Parr’s name is mentioned), his thoughts on displaying moving images and media installations, and what role he believes museums and curators should play in a society that experiences “a surfeit of images” every day. One of Bajac’s comments will ring true to anyone who follows photography today: “Photography is no longer about the wall. The book form is basic to photography. Young photographers are self-publishing. We must be aware of that and work closely with the museum library.”

The full article, “Snapshot of a Curator,” can be found on online.wsj.com.

May 30th, 2013

PDN Video Pick: Our Own Little World

Photographer Lori Waselchuk‘s three-minute video titled Our Own Little World was one of several noteworthy projects produced by participants at the 2013 NPPA Multimedia Immersion workshop at Syracuse University earlier this month. The five-day workshop, which was attended by a PDN editor David Walker at the invitation of the organizers, started with a crash course in multimedia storytelling and production, and quickly moved on to hands-on training in one-man-band video production. Workshop participants drew assignments out of a hat, then hit the streets to shoot the stories. Back at the Newhouse School of Public Communications, where the workshop was held, coaches helped participants shape and edit their stories.

Lori Waselchuk – Our Own Little World – NPPA Immersion 2013.mov.

We asked Waselchuk to tell us a little about her project, and how she pulled it together.

PDN: What was the assignment you got?
Lori Waselchuk: It said, “Keith (Traub) and Theresa (Daddona-Traub) are making furniture from recycled farm materials” and then it gave the name of their business (Unite Two Design) their address and contact info. It was very brief.

PDN: How did you conceive and construct the story from that?
LW: The workshop helped me walk into the story. Bruce Strong‘s lecture on story telling helped me take the basics–who, what, when, where and why– and develop a story arc that has commonality and universality for an audience. Keith and Theresa’s story came out in the interview. I interviewed Theresa first. She was really open. When I asked, ‘how did you start to make furniture?’, she was able to talk honestly and authentically about their journey.

PDN: Did you do the interviews before you started shooting? How did the interview inform what and how you shot?
LW: As a photographer, I get my visual cues from interviews. That was a natural process for me. I needed to know more about who these people were. As they were telling their story, I was able to figure out the important aspects. Theresa spoke about their journey and lessons learned. Keith was shyer about their journey. Working with the farm materials is what gives him his creative oxygen, so I had him talk about the craft, the artwork. He talked about collecting materials, and building relationships with farmers whose farms are no longer in use. He goes out to farms to collect stuff. So I asked if we could go out on one of his scavenging hunts. He made it happen the second day. I drove to Keith and Theresa’s place half an hour before they arrived so I could get the sunrise shots. I wanted to show the texture around their place in early morning light. Keith rolled in, then we went out to the farm, collected, then I spent the rest of the day shooting them at work.

PDN: Why was texture around their place important? What did it contribute to the story?
LW: it was a phenomenal space visually, so I needed to capitalize on that. I wanted to get the quietness, the peacefulness of the place. it’s a bit of a treasured space for them, so I wanted to be able to describe that color and texture.

PDN: What was the biggest challenge you had producing this story?
LW: Shooting felt quite natural. I felt good about photography. It was the sound that I would not have known how to handle. The challenge is to creature texture in editing between sound and visuals. McKenna Ewen (one of the workshop coaches) helped me create those complex mixtures of sound and visuals in the editing. The way he layers those things is something I would never have been able to do. The biggest challenging for me is the editing.

PDN: What were the biggest lessons you learned, about story telling or production?
LW: I loved the intensity of the workshop. It made me feel the way I used to when I was a photographer for a daily newspaper. I’m super excited about the demands of video, and the learning curve ahead. I needed that inspiration.

(Other videos from the workshop are posted on Vimeo. Search “NPPA immersion 2013″)

April 22nd, 2013

Video Pick: Thomas Dworzak’s Long View of the Caucasus

Since the 1990s, Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak has explored the volatile republics of the Northern Caucasus. It’s a region that’s now in the news because alleged Boston bombing suspects Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had ties there, but  Chechnya, Dagestan, Georgia and other republics of the Caucasus have long been a source of curiosity and geopolitical ambitions, especially in Russia.

In his 2010 book, Kavkas, Dworzak, who is now based in Georgia, wrote: “Having discovered the importance of the ‘Caucasus Experience’ in 19th century romantic Russian literature, I finally put together a book with all the images from my years spent in the Caucasus.” Kavkas includes images Dworzak took while covering the conflicts in Chechnya and Abkhazia and their aftermath, as well as scenes from Dagestan, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Ossetia.

In the book’s introduction, Dworzak called Kavkas “a toast to the Caucasus.” Magnum in Motion made a multimedia slide show of some of the images from the book. They appear on screen as in the book, interspersed with text from writers including Tolstoy, Lermontov and Pushkin.

While many of Dworzak’s images are poetic and allusive, and compliment the writers’ rhapsodic prose, at other times they make a sharp contrast, showing the violence and hardship the region has seen in recent years.

Related article:
Boston Bombings Focus Attention on Caucasus, And Photo Projects on the Region

Notable Photo Books 2010 (review of Kavkas, published by Schilt)
(For PDN subscribers only.)

April 2nd, 2013

Video Pick: One Family Business Copes with Climate Change

The team of Benjamin Drummond and Sara Joy Steele have long been using multimedia and video to get beyond statistics and portray the stories of individuals around the world whose lives are affected by climate change. The four new films in their Facing Climate Change are about people in the Pacific Northwest adapting to rising sea levels and atmospheric change. The films premiered this year at the Wild & Scenic Film Festival and are currently being shown around the country on a nationwide tour.

Their film “Oyster Farmers, Facing Climate Change” uses dramatic underwater footage, documentary photography and video, music and interviews to tell the story of Kathleen Nisbet and her father, Dave, who have for years farmed oysters in Washington’s Willapa Bay. Recently, however, oyster larvae and young oysters have been dying at an alarming rate because of the acidity of local waters, caused by the absorption of carbon dioxide. The problem is particularly acute off the Northwest coast. The Nisbets’ solution:  moving some of their business to Hawaii, where there is less ocean upswell, and thus the acidity in the water is increasing less rapidly.

Drummond and Steele had many partners in the making of the new films, including the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington and Washington State Department of Ecology, and they received major funding from Nau’s Grant for Change and several other funders. You can read about the making of the film on Drummond and Steele’s blog, bdsjs.com/blog. You can view all the videos at bdsjs.com/facing-climate-change/ and on Vimeo.

March 26th, 2013

Short Poverty Film Wins Top Multimedia Prize at BOP Competition

Photographer and director Alan Spearman of the Memphis Commercial Appeal has won the Best Use of Multimedia prize at the NPPA Best of Photojournalism contest, judges announced yesterday.

Spearman won the prize for his short film called As I Am, a rich, poetic film about the hard edges of poverty, from the viewpoint of an insider struggling to pull himself out. Spearman entered the film in the NPPA contest under the title, “Memphis Poverty: What Obama Didn’t See.”

The subject of the film, Christopher Dean, had a moment in the YouTube spotlight in 2011 for his charming introduction of Barack Obama at a high school graduation, where Obama spoke.  Community leaders in Memphis rallied around Dean afterwards to help him pay for college. During the summer of 2012, Dean was an intern at the Memphis Commercial Appeal, where he worked with Spearman on the “As I Am” film.

“Memphis Poverty masterfully tells an important American story in a non-traditional way, bypassing the literal translation of poverty to strike the soul,” Best of Photojournalism jurors said in an announcement posted on the NPPA web site. “The artful blend of documentary moments, poetry, music, cinematic shooting and editing craftsmanship moves our art of storytelling forward in a dramatic way.”

The jury, which included Nancy Andrews, Zach Wise, and Jonathan Quilter, gave special recognition to “Dying for Relief,” a multimedia story about the overuse and abuse of prescription drugs, produced by Liz O. Baylen of the Los Angeles Times.

Spearman also won the first place prize in the Feature Multimedia category for the “As I Am” project. First place winners in other BOP multimedia categories included Albert Lee of the Los Angeles Times, who won both the Multimedia Package category and Visual Column/Recurring Series category for his photo and video blog called Framework; MediaStorm in the Documentary Multimedia story category for “A Shadow Remains” (an extension of Philip Toledano’s “Days with My Father” project); Chris Zuppa of the Tampa Bay Times in the New Multimedia/48 Hours category for  “RNC 2012, Inside and Out;” Misha Domozhilov for “Motoball Monsters” in the Sports Multimedia Story category;  and Reuters for “The Wider Image” in the Tablet/Mobile Delivery Project category.

Related:
Picture Story: A Guided Tour of Poverty in Memphis (PDN subscription required)

February 25th, 2013

POYi Update: The New York Times and The Denver Post Excel

©The Denver Post

©The Denver Post

The New York Times and The Denver Post have both won two top prizes so far in the Multimedia Division of the Pictures of the Year International competition. Multimedia judging began on Friday. It is the final division for the competition, which ends tomorrow.

The New York Times won first prize in both the News Multimedia Story and the Feature Multimedia categories. The winning news multimedia entry, about Syrian rebel fighters, was shot by freelance video journalist Ben Solomon. The feature multimedia entry, about a couple’s struggle with the husband’s dementia, was part of the paper’s series called The Vanishing Mind, and included photographs by freelancer Béatrice de Géa.

Last week, the Times won top prize in for Best Newspaper, a POYi Editing Division category. Runners up for Best Newspaper were The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, respectively.

The Denver Post, meanwhile, won the MacDougall Overall Excellence in Editing Award (also part of the Editing Division categories judged last week), as well as first prize in the Issue Reporting Multimedia Story and Sports Multimedia Story categories.

The issue reporting prize was for a project by Mahala Gaylord, Joe Amon, Meghan Lyden, and Tim Rasmussen about two heroin addicts struggling to get by on the streets of Denver. (Still photos from the project also won second prize in the Issue Reporting Picture Story category during the first week of the competition.)

The paper won the Sports Multimedia Story prize for a  project by Mahala Gaylord titled “Trey’s Team,” about a high school football player’s recovery from a head injury.

In the Campaign 2012 Multimedia Story category, Jason Reed and Larry Downing of Reuters won first prize for their story titled “Chasing Obama.”

Among other POYi prize winners in recent days was National Geographic, which won first place for Best Magazine, a POYi Editing Division category.  Runners up for the prize were New York magazine and GEOthema, which took second and third prize, respectively.

TIME magazine won first prize in the Editing Portfolio–Magazine category for its Person of the Year feature about Barack Obama, photographed by Nadav Kander.

POYi Jurors will weigh Documentary Project of the Year entries today. The POYi judging ends tomorrow with the selection of winners in Best eBook & eProject, Best Website, and Multimedia Photographer of the Year categories.

February 1st, 2013

Sinclair, Dimmock Win World Press Multimedia Contest

Too-Young-to-Wed

A still from “Too Young to Wed,” by Stephanie Sinclair and Jessica Dimmock, both of VII Photo.

Stephanie Sinclair and Jessica Dimmock won first place in the Online Feature category of the 2013 World Press Photo Multimedia Contest for “Too Young to Wed.” The documentary multimedia project was produced for the Web and featured Sinclair’s images with motion work by Dimmock. It explores the cultural practice of allowing older men to marry girls under the age of 18 in countries like Ethiopia, Yemen and Afghanistan.

The World Press Photo organization announced its multimedia awards in three categories today in Amsterdam. All first-place winners for the 2013 Multimedia Contest will receive a cash award of 1,500 euros. Second and third place winners will receive a Golden Eye Award and a diploma.

The Too Young to Wed website is a partnership between the United Nations Population Fund and VII Photo. Other winners in the Online Feature category were Liz O. Baylen of the Los Angeles Times for “Dying for Relief: Bitter Pills,” which focuses on overcoming addiction to prescription pills; and Yang Enze of Southern Metropolis Daily for “Dreams on Freewheels” about seven members of China’s Disabled Track Cycling Team, who competed in the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

World Press Photo awarded Pep Bonet of Noor Images first place in the Online Short category for “Into the Shadows.” The online film focuses on the struggles of immigrants living in Johannesburg. Second place in this category went to Arkasha Stevenson of the Los Angeles Times for “Living with a Secret,” which explores gender identity in children. Jérôme Sessini of Magnum Photos won third place for his online short “Aleppo Battleground” about members of the Free Syria Army.

The third category of the World Press Photo Multimedia Contest was Interactive Documentary, which recognizes interactive online projects that feature a “combination of photography and/or film, with animation, graphics, illustrations, sound or text.” First place was awarded to Miquel Dewever-Plana and Isabelle Fougère for “Alma, a Tale of Violence” about gang violence in Guatemala. Jeremy Mendes and Leanne Allison won second place for “Bear 71” about a female grizzly bear; and Claire O’Neill, photo editor at National Public Radio (NPR) won third place for “Lost and Found: Discover a Black-and-White Era in Full Color” about a photo historian who found a collection of photos taken in the 1930s in the trash. An honorable mention in this category went to Jake Price for “UnknownSpring,” which chronicles a Japanese community recovering from the tsunami.

The jury members for this year’s World Press Photo Multimedia Contest were Keith W. Jenkins of NPR, photojournalists Samuel Bollendorff and Susan Meiselas, Kang Kyung-ran of Frontline News Service, writer and poet Patrick Mudekereza, Bjarke Myrthu of Storyplanet.com, Caspar Sonnen of IDFA DocLab and Alan Stoga of Zemi Communications.

This is the third year that World Press Photo, a non-profit which supports visual journalism through educational programs, grants and awards, has honored multimedia storytelling. Michiel Munneke, managing director of World Press Photo, noted that “with the multimedia competition we are trying to do justice to what we see happening in the field. Our ambition is to inspire photographers to move forward and explore new territories.”

To see a complete list of winners and to view the winning projects, visit www.worldpressphoto.org.

Related Articles:

Samuel Aranda Wins 2012 World Press Photo of the Year

World Press Photo Multimedia Winners Announced

October 30th, 2012

PPE 2012: Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur on Cross-Platform Storytelling

For the PhotoPlus seminar “How to Evolve Projects Across Media Platforms,” partners and spouses Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur took the audience through some of the multimedia projects they’ve worked on together. Kashi, a photojournalist with VII, and Winokur, a writer and filmmaker, first collaborated on magazine articles. But as they noted numerous times throughout the discussion, it’s important to think about all of the different outlets where you can show your work, and focusing just on print is not sustainable because commissions from magazines are dwindling. They added that being a single skillset photographer is an idea that is starting to fade away.

Winokur began the seminar by taking us through “Bring It To The Table,” her current project. This personal documentary video follows Winokur around the country as she asks people to literally “sit at her table” to discuss politics. She started the project by raising $30,000 on Kickstarter, which Winokur said helped build an audience of about 280 people who are now invested in its success. She has since recorded a number of conversations between herself and different people on the political spectrum. She is now at the point where she’s trying to find distribution for the Web-based series. Social media has played a crucial role in getting the word out: Winokur has been posting short clips of footage on Facebook and Twitter in order to draw people back to the site bringit2thetable.org. Her strategy is to repurpose the material and post it where people are already interacting with content. The challenges remaining are figuring how to get people to see the series and how to monetize it. Winokur noted that “Bring It To The Table” has received a lot of “earned media” with many publications writing about the project itself, but no media outlets have been willing to show the final Web series in its entirety.

So how did Winokur evolve from a print journalist to a filmmaker? We discovered the answer when she and Kashi took us through their first multimedia project, “Aging in America.” The series, which they began around 17 years ago, was initially conceived as a book and exhibition. They financed the first four years of the project themselves, and later got assignments and commissions for the work; they also licensed some of the images and received grants. About halfway through the seven-year project, they met Brian Storm, who was then working at MSNBC. He offered to do a multimedia piece about the series, which consisted of stills and audio. This sparked the idea of recording Winokur’s interviews with their subjects on video. This resulted in over 100 hours of footage, which also included some b-roll. They turned all of the material into a one-hour documentary, which aired on PBS and is still used at universities across the country as a teaching tool in programs like nursing, medicine and psychology.

The Sandwich Generation,” which focused on Winokur’s father, who was suffering from dementia, was a natural next step for the duo. They partnered with Storm again, who by this time had formed MediaStorm. It would be the first time that Kashi and Winokur turned the camera on themselves as they documented caring for the elderly man. It was also the first time Kashi would shoot still and moving imagery with a cross-platform project in mind. The final result was a multimedia work consisting of still photos, video and audio.

Other projects discussed during the seminar were “Curse of the Black Gold,” a stills and audio project about oil in the Niger Delta; “India’s Fast Lane to the Future,” a stills, video and audio project done as a five-part series while on assignment for National Geographic; “The Leaves Keep Falling,” a project about the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam that consists of stills, video and audio, and was done on commission for an NGO; and “Three” and “Photojournalisms,” which are multimedia extensions for two books that Kashi published.

Some of the tips given by Kashi and Winokur about multimedia work were:

• Always think about the end goal when shooting stills and moving imagery for multimedia work. They recommend being aware of the narrative you’re trying to tell when capturing both.
• As print resources continue to shrink, consider partnering with NGOs and other organizations as a way to disseminate work you are passionate about.
• Consider how publications want to extend printed articles via their websites and tablet editions when pitching ideas.
• Conduct your audio interviews first in order to get to know your subjects and establish the narrative that the multimedia component will follow. It’s also the fastest way to get educated about the topic.
• Don’t try to shoot all of the video and still imagery yourself. Kashi noted, for example, that on the National Geographic assignment he focused on the still images while his fixer recorded the video footage.

Related Article:

Ed Kashi and Julie Winokur on the Work-Home Balance

October 8th, 2012

Call for Applications: €20,000 Tim Hetherington Grant

World Press Photo and Human Rights Watch have announced the call for applications for the second annual Tim Hetherington Grant, named for the photojournalist who was killed by a rocket attack in Libya in April, 2011. The €20,000 ($26,000) grant supports photographers who are working to complete a human rights-themed photographic project.

The grant not only bears Hetherington’s name, it also utilizes as its criteria the ideas and characteristics that defined the late photographer’s work: “Work that operates on multiple platforms and in a variety of formats; that crosses boundaries between breaking news and longer-term investigation; and that demonstrates a consistent moral commitment to the lives and stories of the photographic subjects.”

The inaugural Tim Hetherington Grant was awarded to Stephen Ferry for his project “’Violentology: A Manual of the Colombian Conflict,” which focuses on the history and current dynamics of the war in Colombia, while exposing the role of the distinct parties in the conflict.

The selection committee for the 2012 grant includes:

Marcus Bleasdale, documentary photographer VII Photo Agency; Carroll Bogert, deputy executive director for external relations Human Rights Watch; James Brabazon, journalist and documentary filmmaker; Whitney C. Johnson, director of photography The New Yorker; and Michiel Munneke, managing director World Press Photo. Adriaan Monshouwer, the founder of Picture Inside, will serve as the selection committee secretary.

The deadline for applications is November 15. The recipient will be announced in early December.

For more information and to apply visit: http://www.worldpressphoto.org/2012-tim-hetherington-grant