Will Video Kill The Still Photography Star?

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In 2003, I sat in a movie theater in Los Angeles, Calif., and watched a huge collection of still images from 1980s Hollywood come to life on the screen. The movie, The Kid Stays in the Picture, is a documentary about movie mogul Robert Evans. The directors, Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgan, portrayed the photographs by employing a pan-and-scan technique made popular by Ken Burns in his epic documentary The Civil War 13 years earlier. But they added a unique twist to the Ken Burns effect. Some of the photographs in their movie had a contrived 3-D effect similar to what you’d see if you looked through a kid’s View-Master viewer. That, combined with the compelling narrative by Mr. Evans himself, resulted in an extraordinary motion picture comprised primarily of still images. I wish I knew then that I was looking at a harbinger of the next evolutionary step of the photography industry.

The Youth Of Today
Veronica Wilson is a young, talented, up-and-coming photojournalist whose work I caught wind of about six months ago. Recently, Miss Wilson e-mailed me a link to what I assumed would be an online gallery of the photographs of a story she just finished shooting for an East Coast newspaper. It wasn’t—it was an audio interview of the subject of the photographs playing over a slideshow of the images—a multimedia piece. I could feel the hairs on the back of my purist photographic sensibilities start to stand on end. As I watched her presentation, it was obvious that the piece was solid and the photographs themselves were fantastic. I quickly realized that there was little difference between what Miss Wilson had done and what I lauded as great moviemaking in The Kid Stays in the Picture. A few days later, I came across a similarly styled photojournalism/multimedia piece on the widely read news website for the BBC. Miss Wilson wasn’t trying to set a new trend; she was competing with an existing one. (For more on this issue, check out the article “Photojournalism In The Age Of YouTube” on the DPP website—go to www.digitalphotopro.com/business/photojournalism-in-the-age-of-youtube.html.)

Multimedia Society
Survey your own online viewing experiences to understand how the audience for your work has evolved their expectations. If you find viewing a slideshow of an airplane landing in the Hudson River with a soundtrack of the dialogue between the pilot and the tower compelling, you’re not alone. Conversely, if you feel that adding a soundtrack to your own images would diminish the value of your photography, you will be alone.

The rookie generation of shooters like Miss Wilson already are indoctrinated with this multimedia way of thinking because of their very early exposure to the Internet. What they’re bringing to the table, unfettered by any predisposed idea of the traditional definition of a photographer, is exactly what contemporary commercial clients want to see available to them for their advertising campaigns. What they don’t have when compared to a veteran photographer is experience. However, in the shadow of technological prowess, the currency of experience will devalue rapidly unless those with it apply it to what’s shaping up to be the next era in our industry.

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