Monday, October 13, 2014

Storytelling through photos

Many media experts are predicting a bleak future for theatrical film and TV now that an entire generation has turned away to short YouTube amateur videos and the pleasures of being the hero in video games.

But storytelling itself and our primitive desire to devour great stories will always remain, no matter what the platform or length.

When you think about the projects you want to accomplish, does it have to be a 300 page novel, or could it be a 50 page Amazon singlet? A 120 minute movie, or just a photo with a paragraph caption that makes people laugh, weep, and change their prejudices? 

I'm talking of course about Facebook sensation HONY - Humans of New York. (If you aren't on Facebook, here is the less interactive website).

If you haven't heard about HONY yet, you will. The phenomena has 10.2 million viewers today. That's more than beloved icon and King of the Internet Uncle George Takei's 7.8 million!

There's a new King of the Internet, and his name is Brandon Stanton. He's a goofy white guy with a high voice, and a lanky 6 foot plus frame he slouches to be less threatening to the strangers he approaches, often in the roughest areas of New York burroughs.

You might assume Brandon studied photojournalism, and a star college student. But in fact he'd barely picked up a camera before his daily three-mile walks began to include photographs so powerful that Facebook users are demanding he win the Nobel Peace Prize.

And his undergraduate career was so bad his alma mater now proudly bears a plaque commemorating his achievement as their only student to get five F's in one semester! So yes, there is hope for you and your projects. In less than four years of walking around NYC talking to the six strangers a day he photographs, this 29-year-old has become a big NYT best-selling-author (Authors on average get a $1 a book, so do the math on how "comfortable" he is now!) who does special projects for the UN, has speaking engagements at colleges that wouldn't admit him, and is stopped on the streets as an icon and hero.

The lessons here are to follow your passion, do what other people aren't, brand yourself by your differences, and above all TELL US A STORY.


Here is another beautiful example of outside-the-box photographic storytelling done for the cost of a camera by photographer Nicholas Nixon.

The Brown Sisters at Forty Years

This is another deceptively simple but powerful idea (40 portraits in 40 years) that has viewers openly weeping at museum exhibits.

Both of these artists have told incredibly powerful stories simply, and changed the world for the better.

So stop worrying about the future of the film and television industry, and focus on story.

What will your story be?

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