Online Visual Journalism
March 1, 2009 9:45 PM   Subscribe

They call themselves Visual Journalists. Prime among them is the Bombay Flying Club, a group of photo-journalists who are using the latest web and flash technologies to frame their online news gathering and documentary storytelling.

The Afghan Diaries is a three-part documentary about Danish soldiers who put their lives at risk in order to defend our "peace loving nations" against global terrorism.

Life After the Tsunami. Four years have passed since that horrible South Asian disaster. See the results of relief efforts.

Bucharest Below Ground follows people living in the abandoned heat pipes behind the Casa Radio building. Children call this home.

In a fast paced world where time is money and materialism is more important than anything else, some people give up everything to live in harmony with nature. Into the Wild is the portrait of a man who owns nothing, yet is happier than most.

Wave after wave, they formed a veritable river of humanity that flowed onto the banks of the Ganges to celebrate the greatest spiritual festival ever held in the history of the world, the mighty Kumbh Mela.

And from the San Jose Mercury News, Left Behind, a visual journey through some of Mumbai's worst slums areas. Shot around Bandra East, Mahim and Dharavi, there's also some great footage from the Deonar dump site situated on the outskirts of this mega city.

All this, as insight into some of the video and multimedia pieces that we will be seeing a lot of coming from visual journalists in the near future. With the new Canon 5D Mark II at hand, productions like these, will inevitably be a lot easier to produce.
posted by netbros (19 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Loads SLOOOOOOOOWLY. I'm a big fan though of this new media journalism. The New York Time's Interactive Journalists are also doing a great job, I think.
posted by xammerboy at 10:00 PM on March 1, 2009

I'm majoring in journalism, and I have a love of photography. I've never been interested in working for a newspaper, and always thought of magazines as more appealing.
But now as online multimedia continued to increase in popularity and evolve as a medium of its own, I've been thinking more and more that stuff like this is more or less what I hope to be able to do after I graduate.

Thank you for posting this.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 10:03 PM on March 1, 2009

As more and more people get cameras and internet access, so that everyone has the rudimentary tools and many have the nice stuff, and everyone has at least a basic way to publish their pictures to the world, is it becoming harder to make a living at photojournalism?
posted by pracowity at 11:57 PM on March 1, 2009

Where do people come up with the idea to do these obnoxious flash interfaces? I really don't want to spend X minutes listening to some guy talk or for a page to load. Just give me a list of pictures and captions to scroll through. Here's an example of DOIN' IT RITE.
posted by delmoi at 12:35 AM on March 2, 2009

I just watched Into The Wild and i really enjoyed it. I especially like that the images are so high resolution. And the load speed wasn't too bad for me. Also the storytelling aspect of it was excellent. I came away feeling like i really understood the man who was the subject of the story.

Once again, though, i think the idea of accessibility of content is being lost. While the flash interface was nice, and fit the need, it once again unnecessarily ignores making the content available and accessible.

Why show me the picture in hi res and not let me download it? If i wanted to, i could screen shot the image. If i wanted to rip the video stream i could, so just give me a link and let me download it.

That aside, while looking around i came across this blog/site which collects this time of journalism:

on preview, pracowity: i think one thing to consider is that owning a nice camera does not make you a photographer. The skill and art in capturing the essence of a moment (and physically being at a location) is something that will continue to be valuable in my opinion. Id be interested to hear the thoughts of someone who is actually a photojournalist or in the industry.
posted by Merik at 12:38 AM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

while i do echo you sentiments in some ways and i love the big picture, the impact and ambiance of some of the storytelling can not be achieved with just an image and caption. Specifically the Into The Wild is narrated by the kooky old guy in the woods who is the subject accompanied by the ambient audio of his life. Also the timing of the audio with the image transition really adds to the meaning in many instances.

That said, i think the content should be offered both ways.
posted by Merik at 12:44 AM on March 2, 2009

owning a nice camera does not make you a photographer

That's true, but not having a camera (and film, development money, etc.) pretty much makes you not a photographer. Until recently, buying a nice camera and related equipment, and paying for the film and all of the subsequent development, and getting your pictures out there for others to see were larger obstacles to becoming an experienced (and perhaps good) photographer. Now, if you can afford a decent digital camera and a computer, you can take an unlimited number of pictures, you can do an unlimited number of things to those pictures without having to build a special room or play with a chemistry set, you can experiment over and over again (and undo as needed) at almost no added cost, and you can publish your stuff for anyone in the world to see.
posted by pracowity at 12:55 AM on March 2, 2009

"Where do people come up with the idea to do these obnoxious flash interfaces?"

3rd year, journalism school. It's the course marked "sucky web design no sentient reader ever asked for".

It is typically prefaced by the guidance that the worse user interface you have, the less likely a spotty faced blogger will rip off your Pulitzer-winning photodocumentary of transexual open cast miners under Taleban rule.
posted by MuffinMan at 4:46 AM on March 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

delmoi: "I really don't want to spend X minutes listening to some guy talk or for a page to load. Just give me a list of pictures and captions to scroll through. Here's an example of DOIN' IT RITE."

It's called "narrative". Try it sometime. Get lost in the moment, let the artist lead the way. Don't worry about the X minutes. Yeah sure, you could read it faster and skip around etc. but it misses the point and is a lesser experience, like watching a movie by reading the storyboards. It's not just about information and how quickly you can absorb it.
posted by stbalbach at 5:01 AM on March 2, 2009

Pictures are worth 1000 words.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 5:29 AM on March 2, 2009

stbalbach: It's called "narrative". Try it sometime. Get lost in the moment, let the artist lead the way. Don't worry about the X minutes. Yeah sure, you could read it faster and skip around etc. but it misses the point and is a lesser experience, like watching a movie by reading the storyboards.

Or you can follow a friend of mine and watch DVDs at 2x speed with English captioning on, justified with an efficiency argument.
posted by shothotbot at 6:47 AM on March 2, 2009

Delmoi, I love The Big Picture to death, but that's completely different from an audio slideshow. TBP is generally about the photos, whereas audio slideshows are, as stbalbach said, about narrative and the photographs. It's like having an NPR program accompany your slideshow. It's not just audio-captions.

That's true, but not having a camera (and film, development money, etc.) pretty much makes you not a photographer.

And any photographer in the industry who still uses film isn't going to risk sending those negatives over to someone else, they're going to develop it themselves.

When I first started taking an interest in photography, I used my dad's old Nikon FM2. If I had it my way, everyone would learn on an old manual analog. I think with digital, things like aperture and ISO and all this other stuff become strangely abstract. You appreciate the fact that the camera is nothing more than a tool used to focus the light bouncing off of what's in front of you and transfer it onto a temporary medium, and that it takes practice--lots of practice--to be able to operate this tool well.

Practice and the skills that result are what make you a photographer. Having a camera to use is just obviously one of the prerequisites. Owning a digital camera does not make you any more or less of a photographer, and I think claims to the contrary are ridiculous.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 7:18 AM on March 2, 2009

I think the wonderful thing about digital is the fact that it really allows everyone to be a photographer on some level. This coming from someone who makes a living in the field. But I feel secure that most of them will never take my job away from me. My bigger worry is the demise of the newspaper and the influx of amazing photojournalists that were laid off elsewhere trying to take my work away from me. Not pretty out there.

As for the whole photographer vs Photographer thing. Lots of people like shooting photos. Some are better than others. Some folks can shoot and shoot and shoot and just not really have 'it'. Some can pick up a camera and it's like they were born to shoot. And still others can work hard and evolve as shooters and become really good.

As for the links, what these guys/gals are doing, is pretty amazing and in my opinion very forward thinking. As traditional media outlets (newpapers and mags) collapse left and right journalists of all sorts are either going to find other work or find new outlets to showcase their work. So why not create your own outlet. The issue, like anything, is funding. How can you get the money to afford to keep telling your stories.

Thanks for the post.
posted by WickedPissah at 8:04 AM on March 2, 2009


You misread me. I meant that, in Ye Olden Days, people needed film and so on, so it could be pretty expensive to be out taking and developing dozens of pictures every day, and then you had to physically move the pictures somewhere because you couldn't magically send perfect copies around the world in a few seconds for nothing. Given those giant differences, I wondered whether the physical and fiscal ease of producing digital pictures makes it perhaps easier to learn photojournalism but consequently harder to make a buck at it because the competition is greater.
posted by pracowity at 8:23 AM on March 2, 2009

Photojournalism is photojournalism regardless of whether it was back then or now. It is still a craft that you can't just pick up because you can shoot a lot. There is much more to it then that.

As for it being harder to make a buck. Yes but not because there are more photographers. It is harder because the business model has changed. Freelancers used to be able to go out and shoot something, call a client and get paid pretty well for one or two photos and still retain the rights to those photos. Sometimes on a big big event wires will fight for the pics and offer big money but for day in day out coverage no more.

Then the AP came out with their new all rights contract (90's I think). Instead of getting paid per photo or per job and being able to keep your negatives, you are now paid a day rate and expected to send in x number of photos and all the rights to those photos. Once AP went that route so did almost all of the other wires. Thats just one of the reasons why it is harder.
posted by WickedPissah at 8:39 AM on March 2, 2009

Photojournalist here:

It's hard to make a living doing this right now because our publications are shuttering. Bad economy means people spending less money means business have less money to spend on ads in the newspapers and magazines which either lay off half their staffs (often entire photo staffs) or fold completely. Most publications just slash their budgets and re-work their contracts with lousy rights like WickedPissah said.

My colleagues and I agree the well is a little dry right now, but if we've been good squirrels in the good times, then we can live off our acorns and work on personal projects that we didn't have the time for before. I think that while there will be a lot of good photographers washing out of the field because they can't afford to stay in, the quality of personal projects will soar- and that's a great thing.

A nice camera in the hands of an amatuer is still a paperweight. A nice camera in the hands of a serious hobbyist is still just a nice camera. Suggesting that regular folks can do what professional photojournalists do because they now have access to better gear is like suggesting Joe Blow can write the next War and Peace because he has a really nice pen.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 9:31 AM on March 2, 2009

I wanted to love these, but most of the interfaces were too distracting, too slow, too complicated, and too varied (even those from a single source) - part of the way I am able to focus on the actual content of a magazine or newspaper is the format doesn't vary from issue to issue. I want a clean, simple portal into the deep content, not distracting showbiz that prevents me from focusing on the substance.
posted by twsf at 9:35 AM on March 2, 2009

I find this so frustrating. I'm truly interested in the content here but more often than not, I have serious trouble with the form in which it's delivered.

Problems include: It loads sloooooowly, I can't seem to get the navigation to work or I can get the navigation to work to a degree, but can't seem to back myself to go to a different area so I have to reload the whole dang thing again to go off in a different direction.

Trying different browswers sometimes fixes the problems, sometimes not. Eh. Forgetaboutit.
posted by trixare4kids at 1:52 PM on March 2, 2009

Yeah, photojournalism as a specific kind of trade demands training of some sort--whether on the job or at a trade school or university. To the best of my knowledge, however, Tolstoy did not have an MFA. He didn't strongly identify with the literary world of his era, regardless.
posted by raysmj at 10:25 PM on March 2, 2009

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