Archive for March, 2012

It’s Time to Get Real – Notes from a Documentary Photography Workshop

Jean-Luc looks out at life from his Airstream kitchen

I’m not much of a manifesto guy, but the last week has made me want to jump up on the barricades and take a stand for a particular type of photography.

I’ve just finished the Documentary Storytelling workshop with Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Deanne Fitzmaurice at the Santa Fe Photography workshops. Over four days (that included class time), I shot and edited a story about French chef Jean-Luc Salles, who’s given up running high-end restaurants to cook excellent food from scratch that he serves out of a 1960s Airstream trailer called Le Pod that sits in a parking lot here in Santa Fe. (I’ll write a post about him and show more of the photos later).

I learned a great deal, met lots of good people, and the experience enhanced my love of documentary photography as the most powerful and compelling type of shooting (not to mention the hardest to do well).

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Seven things you can learn from the Kony 2012 Video

How would you like over 80 million views of the video you made for your not very large non-profit? Well, as you probably know, the folks at Invisible Children have just done that with their Kony 2012 campaign, raising awareness of the LRA leader Joseph Kony, responsible for horrific acts of child kidnapping, murder, sexual abuse and forced slavery in Africa.

I don’t know enough to know the full motivations of its creators (which have been widely discussed), but the video has been a social media triumph, so let’s break down some of the keys to its massive success (and not spend too long on the sad follow-up to the triumph):

 1) Make it personal and passionate

The video wraps the cause in a personal story involving the film maker Jason Russell, his son and a survivor from the LRA the family befriends. They could have given many more facts about the case (and some have criticized the video for not going into the details), but telling a more personal story makes the audience (of regular people not journalists or historians) identify more strongly with the campaign. Especially when Russell’s passion and commitment are so apparent.

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What medieval manuscripts can teach you about social media

Book of Deer (public domain, courtesy of wikipedia)

Back in the early 1990s I spent a lot of time studying medieval manuscripts, and what I learned has proved to be a valuable way of thinking about social media. Unlikely

My undergraduate degree was in Dark Age languages and history, and  I spent hours in the libraries of Cambridge poring over manuscripts written over a millennium ago with a quill pen in a freezing scriptorium on cow hide by monks writing in a language that wasn’t their own. Those illuminated texts were almost impossibly hard to produce, but they are beautiful works of art that changed lives at the time, and have since survived centuries of age and abuse.

Interestingly, the monks who copied these texts also wrote little notes about more day to day stuff in the margins of these beautiful books. These marginalia (often written in the monks’ vernacular languages, rather than the Latin of the main texts) commented on the weather, or complained about their colleagues. There were the social media posts of their time – ephemeral but personal and revealing.

So there was the long-form, well-produced and considered work, and the looser and shorter marginalia. We need both too, to present a rounded picture of our organizations.

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