Visual storytelling – giving a voice to the ordinary people

A photographer Andrea Gjestvang in her photo project “One Day in History” exposed strong emotions and powerful messages of the survivors of the 2011 Norwegian massacre. Norway, a low-crime country, was under the shock when 69 mostly young people were killed in the shootings in the summer camp, while around 500 survived, many of them seriously wounded. According to the Forbes report, Norway has some of the lowest homicide rates in the world (0.6 homicides per 100,000 people in 2009, comparing to five murders per 100,000 in the US which means that the US has eight times as many homicides.) Just for comparison, only in St. Louis 114 homicides were reported in 2011, while the same number of homicides were reported in this Scandinavian country.

Through visual images, Gjestvang told the story about the survivors who are in the process of emotional and physical healing and who still struggle with the consequences and the memories of the massacre. Even though Gjestvang worked as a photo editor at the time, her storytelling is not journalism in traditional sense, but a project of the series of photographs which is later published as a book. Gjestvang allowed the survivors to decide to what extent they wanted to be  exposed to the camera and what were the ways they would like to tell their story. As Brain Storm from MediaStorm would say, through taken photos Gjestvang “conveyed the essence of the human experience in deeply personal, intimate and emotional ways” and therefore her storytelling was not only good but also compelling. Gjestvang allowed the survivors to tell their own stories and express their sorrow, their scars, their weaknesses or their strength. Her visual storytelling about the survivors of the Norwegian massacre allowed the public to connect to the survivors, recognize their feelings and hear their voices. This project tells the story about celebrating life and remembering those who haven’t survived. The survivors told that story, and Gjestvang used the still camera to allow for their voices to be heard.

Multimedia enhances freezing-to-death experience

While I was waiting for the upcoming snowstorm I run into a multimedia story about the Iditarod Trail sled dog race in Alaska. The author Brian Phillips recorded his adventure when he tracked the race from Anchorage to Nome, in a small plane equipped with skies. At first, I thought that that it would be another story about snow, cold weather and winter sports but the author’s admittance that he also hates snow made me interested in the story. But what else make this story a good multiplatform journalism project? Besides the content, the narrative about the sled dogs as the only means of transportation in the Alaskan snowy wilderness was accompanied with photos, videos, audio elements and interactive maps which make this winter story more appealing. Photos and drawings of dogs and Alaskan animals, images of cities and checkpoints and the interactive map worked well together with Phillips’ description of the race and the mushers. In this linear story that Phillips wrote for the sports website Grantland supported by ESPN, he provided a lot of details about the race, rich descriptions of beauty of Alaskan wilderness covered by deep snow, and dialogues that he had with local residents. It is not only the excitement of mushing and the competition that made this story good, but the author’s writing style, his personal thoughts and feelings about the possible freezing-to-death experience in subarctic wilderness, recorded voices of local residents, and a short video sharing his excitement when he saw a polar bear, are the elements that grab one’s attention. After all, this innovative storytelling made me feel not so miserable about the snow fall because winter can be both, unpleasant and beautiful. And for those, who are only interested in the information about the race winners, the details about the finish line are just one click away.