“new horizons” for visual storytelling

For decades journalists have depended on photographs to tell stories but this article describes the many ways that the field of visual storytelling has changed.  

A major theme throughout the article is accessibility to equipment and more technology that anyone can use. 

I like that the article emphasizes how even with more technology, there is still “no app” for capturing beautiful moments. 

It used to be rolls of film with limited exposures and lengthy processing but now it’s hundreds of images at our fingertips. 
Is the more the merrier, though? Have we been desensitized or is it just easier to connect to images? 

Mentioned in the article, “A Grunt’s Life” by Damon Winter is a photo story he created by taking photos through the hipstamatic app.



To me, the images here are visually interesting and undoubtedly more impressive than most on my instagram feed, I found myself questioning whether these moments really would have “disappeared” with the introduction of a DSLR camera. What do you think the advantages or disadvantages of these are aesthetically? Do you agree that these moments may have been impossible to capture without the discretion of a cell phone? 

This also made me think about the format of viewing, instead of taking images that would just stand up well printed in newspapers, we see thumbnails and small squares, slideshows and videos. We probably wouldn’t be engaged in our webpages and screens if all we had were lines of text without images or design. It used to be one picture or maybe a few photos to go with an article. The journalist had one frame to encompass an entire story. Do you feel that makes the image more powerful? How do multiple images or a video change the way we interpret that representation? 



About Marlene Lacasse

michigander born and raised living in florence, italy || pursuing a bachelor of fine arts at the university of michigan stamps school of art and design, specializing in photography and filmmaking. taking a gap year before my senior thesis to travel and experience life in italy after studying in (and falling in love with) florence summer of 2014. || observer, storyteller, adventurer || i’m not so good with words

7 Responses to ““new horizons” for visual storytelling”

  1. I agree that maybe we are being desensitized to powerful images, just by the sheer number of images we see daily. Almost every person I know has a smartphone and almost every smartphone user I know has an instagram, a tumblr, a facebook, and a twitter. These technologies have been built to allow us to absorb hundreds of images daily, just with the swipe of a screen. I’ve noticed that personally, this means I tend to spend less time looking at each image. I see fantastic photography and illustration (both professional and amateur) every day, but I breeze over most of it, just because the sheer volume is overwhelming.

    I’m not sure how I feel about the “discretion” of cellphone photography compared to DSLR, but I do think that maybe some moments could be missed in the shuffle of operating a larger camera. Smartphones make photographing and sharing so easy that nearly instant photo and video of an event can be captured, which may be lost to a larger, more involved camera.

  2. Such interesting articles. Thank you for sharing!

    Winter’s comment that “using the phone is discreet and casual and unintimidating,” got me thinking. I think that phone photography which is often put online, such as through Facebook pics via smartphones, allows us to view and better understand the normal lives of people around us or afar. While no picture is a perfect representation of someones’ life, they provide snapshots. The aesthetics of professional photographs may not be there, but the rawness still exists. This is important for decision-makers and researchers to study in order to understand what to provide for individuals and their communities.

  3. I think that recent technologies give the average person a better opportunity to view photos and connect to images. I do not think that this has directly caused desensitization of these beautiful moments. Prior to the discussed applications and the increase in visual story telling in media sources, readers were exposed to a limited amount of photos that were displayed in the print paper each day. Now, anyone with internet access is equally able to view–and connect with!–millions of images everyday. Whether or not a person experiences this connection is subjective to the viewer and the quality of the photo. I do not think it is easier or more difficult to “connect” with a photo but there are certainly more opportunities to do–so hopefully one of them does it for you!

    I think that the ability to capture an image with a cell phone is advantageous for photojournalists and viewers. Any writer who knows how to operate a smart phone can now take photos at any time. These photos may have not have been taken had Winter not had his smart phone. A journalism advisor once told me to carry a camera with me at all times because you never know when breaking news will come to fruition. Today, cell phones allow people this ability without needing to have a separate device.

    Having limited space for photos limits the visual story that one can display. If only one frame is available, yes, the editor may choose one that is more powerful. However, the ability to have more photos in a story allows the reader to have a clearer interpretation/idea of the events or subjects of the story. Because of this, I think that multiple photos can give a story more credibility. OR depending on the angle of the camera and the scene that is depicted, photos can also make a story more slanted or display a subject or event in a sensationalized way.

  4. A phone camera will never be able to create the same work as a full-blown DSLR, and a DSLR will never be able to go places a phone camera will. There are pros and cons to both sides: the phone camera is small and ubiquitous these days and sometimes not even noticeable, while a DSLR can elicit both stares and grimaces from those who have no desire to be photographed. However, the quality of a phone photo is just unacceptable compared to the quality of a DSLR. Post-production editing obviously can even the playing field a little bit, but never entirely. I personally think that while phone cameras are convenient, when it comes to art-quality photojournalism, a real camera is almost always the way to go.
    Having a thousand photos to look at a day may make someone more informed, but it certainly doesn’t make them understand the meaning behind the photos better. If anything, it make make deep understanding harder because the attention given to each photo is so minimal that only the topmost level of understanding is read.

  5. I don’t know if I agree with the statement that the photographs would have been impossible to take without the camera phone. Hard to take photographs have popped up throughout history that were clearly not taken with camera phones; think photos depicting social injustices. Maybe we just have more proof now. Nevertheless I think that for investigative journalism phone cameras are essential, no one lugging around a DSLR is going to get access to a CAFO for instance. I also agree with emjaffe that there is a rawness to phone photographs that definitely has its own value. DSLR photographs are sometimes so good that I take no interest in them because they the resolution is better than the human eye and this makes them look computer generated to me. When I look at a picture that isn’t excessively edited and doesn’t have an amazing resolution, I can picture myself there. I think that makes these sort of raw pictures more attractive to an audience.

  6. I think the internet and smartphones have caused an image overload. Imagery is becoming harder to connect with because we are desensitized to it. This is largely the problem of the social media sites that we obsess over. On a daily basis I scroll through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit. I have probably looked at over 100 pictures today alone, but if you asked me to describe 5 of them, I probably would not be able to do it. The discussion of connection with imagery always reminds of me those Year in Review photo collections. It is usually 10-20 major events of the year, each captured through just one image. I have found myself close to tears in some cases because the one image that was selected for a certain event was so powerful. That, to me, is what has been lost with the development of new technologies.

  7. I think that because smart phones are so ubiquitous they can capture moments that would be impossible with a large DSLR camera. And I don’t believe that the myriad of photos we are exposed to has desensitized us to good photography. Most of the pictures I look at one facebook and instagram are of pictures of puppies and food. When an emotionally charged photo comes onto my feed, say of a soldier in Afghanistan or of an abused child, it still grabs my attention. The vast majority of photos people take with their phones are trivial, so a photo that is meant to share a larger story still has the power to hit home.

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