Tag: stuff that others do

The Mozzarella Maker

For our Picture Story and Photographic Essay class, we were asked to find a job profile that inspired us. I looked around a lot, and found a lot of stuff, some better and some not so good. Yet the one that I picked stood out in many ways. First of all, it was beautifully photographed – no surprise, however, as it was done by Todd Heisler, who is one of the best contemporary photographers in my eyes. I also love the story of this fragile, old woman, who at the same time has so much stamina and power – plus, she’s really into cheese, which is always a bonus for me… Anyway, here’s the Mozzarella Maker! Enjoy it!

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

October 21, 2009

AIDS Orphans

For our Electronic Photojournalism course, we had to critique a multimedia piece on a news organization’s website. I chose the project AIDS Orphans on the website of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., based newspaper Sun Sentinel. It is a comprehensive piece in several chapters dealing on the AIDS epidemic in Haiti and its consequences for the entire society of the small Caribbean island state.

Copyright 2006 Sun Sentinel

AIDS Orphans is a piece of epic dimensions. After the pre-loader with a short introductory text, the viewer is taken to the main menu where he can choose between four chapters. The first three chapters each explore one aspect of the AIDS epidemic in Haiti while the fourth one tells the story of a Haiti native who died of AIDS at age 18 in Florida. Each chapter is again divided up in several parts, consisting of audio slideshows, interactive info graphics and links to related articles in the Sun Sentinel. At the bottom of each chapter’s submenu is a scrollbar with portraits that introduce on click the featured children with a short audio track.

The audio slideshows are very comprehensive in nature and provide rich explanations of the issues addressed in light of the social and cultural context. Detailed, interactive info graphics provide further information related to the topic and each chapter contains a link list to related articles in the Sun Sentinel. In two chapters (Houses of Hope and A Future With HIV), 360 degree panoramics introduce the viewer to the places featured in the slideshows and the people living in these places. The producers of this project did a great job in creating a multi-layered, interactive and comprehensive piece of journalism.

On a technical level, there is little to criticize. The menus are well thought of and intuitive, and the design is plain, simple and beautiful, without any distracting and unnecessary elements. The only thing that disturbed me while I was working my way through this piece was the music that accompanies the menus. It is the generic, depressive piano music that is featured in almost every other multimedia piece on difficult issues nowadays. I think that the piece could easily do without it. Also, it is very difficult to navigate to the piece from the main website of the newspaper, and even though I knew that it was there, it took me about ten minutes to find it. For someone who doesn’t know that it’s there, it is pretty much impossible to find. Apart from these two issues however, I think that AIDS Orphans is an outstanding piece of journalism that pushes the limits of multimedia.

October 18, 2009

Kingsley’s Crossing

Kingsley’s Crossing is the story of a young Cameroonian who decides to leave behind his country and escape to Europe in order to support his family back home. French photojournalist Olivier Jobard accompanies him during the whole journey, from the moment Kingsley decides to leave home, throughout the crazy journey across the African continent, the life-threatening boat ride across the Atlantic Ocean until he reaches Europe and starts his new life. It is a compelling story about despair, determination, hopes and dreams, but also about the shattering of these hopes and dreams. MediaStorm has published a multimedia version of this photo story, produced by Brian Storm and Eric Maierson, which can be seen here.

According to Brian Storm, Olivier Jobard originally did not plan to edit this story as a multimedia show, which is why there is no on-site audio. However, I believe that this adds to the power of the whole outcome, because he could (and did) concentrate fully on his photography.

Throughout the story, Jobard is extremely close to his subjects. He is not an observer anymore, but he becomes a participant in this perilous journey. He is with them during the whole trip, and neither sandstorms nor fear of robbers nor the dreadful, godforsaken nutshell the group tries to cross the Atlantic in can put him off joining them. He crosses the desert on the back of a truck, along with 35 other people. He sleeps with them under thorn bushes. He is with them when their boat capsizes at night and two people die in the waves, and he is with them when the boat is about to sink in the middle of the ocean and they are rescued literally in the last moment by the Spanish Coast Guard. Thus he is able to deliver photography that is unprecedentedly close to the human drama refugees go through every day. He captures not only the events that are happening in front of his lens. He captures the fear and the despair, the determination and the bravery of the people who are with him.

In this story, Jobard uses only available light and shoots wide-angle, probably even using only one lens. It seems that he tried to keep his gear as limited as possible, which makes sense on a journey as chaotic as this one. The use of available light results in some blurred pictures, especially those of the boat ride at night. These pictures are incredibly powerful and probably convey the desperate atmosphere a lot better than sharp pictures would. They carry a strong reminiscence of Robert Capa’s D-Day images.

Upon presenting the pictures to Brian Storm, president of MediaStorm, Storm recommended Jobard in absence of on-site audio to go and interview Kingsley, confronting him with the photographs of the journey. In this interview, Kingsley sits in front of a white background and recapitulates his whole story in vivid details. This interview is the basis for the film’s audio track. Together, Kingsley and Jobard lead us through the story, step by step, the one in words, the other in pictures. The combination of Kingsley’s voice and those incredible pictures brings the story to vivid life and endows it with an amazing emotional as well as informative power. Along with the few and very carefully used video sequences where you can actually see Kingsley talking, the film brings the viewer extremely close to the narrator.
In addition to the interview, African percussion music underlies large parts of the film and changes its rhythm and time according to the rhythm of the narration, thus emphasizing the very successful interplay of moments of tension and moments of quietness that make a story absorbing.

Jody Sugrue and Vincent Diga contributed elaborately animated graphics to the project. On these recurring maps of Africa, the viewer can follow Kingsley on his insane odyssey across the continent. His disheartening seesaw – traveling across the desert towards the European continent, turning around and moving away from it, once more turning around, being already in viewing distance of the Spanish coast only to travel south again – could probably not be illustrated in a better way.

The last scene of the film is the end of the interview, where Jobard asks Kingsley if he wants to say anything else. Kingsley contemplates for an instant and then says no. The camera stays on him, and he is obviously very agitated. He buries his face in his hands, then silently stands up and leaves the frame. This unusual but powerful ending reflects the feeling that the viewer is left behind with after seeing this incredible story: speechlessness.

All in all, it can be said that Kingsley’s Crossing is an outstanding example of the successful combination of different media. It absorbs the viewer until the very end and leaves a permanent impression. It is concerned journalistic work at its highest level, triggering every kind of reaction from people of all social backgrounds – refugees as well as visual anthropologists – as can be seen in the comments on this film. It creates awareness and thus has the power to contribute substantially to a change of the refugees’ situation. It is – like most of the other films on MediaStorm – a groundbreaking piece of work that demonstrates us where photojournalism is bound to go in future.

December 1, 2008

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