Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Six great collaborative photography and journalism projects

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on May 1, 2010

I think collaborative projects & crowd sourced creativity, is one of the greatest and most powerful things about the internet.

Getting people, not just to share their opinion, but a bit of their creative flair is wonderful and it’s great seeing photographers & journalists using that power well. Here are four great examples I’ve found over the past few years. If you know any good ones, feel free to share!

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(Images: Someone Once Told Me, 4am Project, How’s Your Weekend, Volcano Love Stories)

Someone Once Told Me

A great concept from BBC Journalist Mario Cacciottolo: people take pictures of themselves holding up a card with a phrase someone once told them. The rules are it has to be something said to them directly, in monochrome and on a piece of paper. I broke the rule writing on a whiteboard I know.

I used SOTM to teach my students basic photography and I was chuffed to see some of them appear on the site having submitted their own ones.

And they’re on Twitter too: @SOTM

How’s Your Weekend?

I love this idea to bits:

Sunny lazy day on the beach. Snuggling under blanket over hot chocolate and DVDs. Morning jogging. A road trip. A hot date. Good times wine and dine. Dress up party. Awesome gigs. A craft day. Baking cupcakes or cooking homemade pasta. Afternoon tea. Coffee and cakes. Art exhibition…we want to share how people around the world spend their weekends. Everyone has a story, share your weekend with us and see what others do too.

The rules are you must submit 3 images which tell the story of your weekend (building a narrative) and they must be at least 800px wide.

Click here to find out more.

Volcano Love Stories

The idea here is to collect stories of love and loss which inevitably happened when the volcanic ash cloud descended on Europe and closed air space.

Were adulterers caught out when they couldn’t get home from their illicit break? Did a romantic weekend with a new couple turn into a nightmare week of travelling which broke them up? And on the flip side, were any people brought together in the melee who wouldn’t otherwise have met?

Click here to contribute stories.

4am Project

A well known British born project to capture the world at 0400 on a specific date. This year it was the 4th April, and despite my best intentions I never made it out of bed on time (well, it was a Sunday).

Lots of people did though – check out the results here.

A Moment in Time

On a similar theme comes A Moment In Time, on the 2nd May 2010 (I just got this blog out in time!); a project by the folks at the New York Times’ Lens Blog.

The idea: photographers, professional and amateur all capture an image at the same moment. This weekend it is 1500 UTC (GMT), so wherever you are in the world, work out your local time and go out and take an image.

Rather than capturing a random shot, they want images you’ve put some time into:

What matters more than technique is the thought behind the picture, because you’ll only be sending us one. So please do think beforehand about where you will want to be and what you will want to focus on.

Click here to read the rules  – and take part!

Have I gone way off topic?

What’s this got to do with multimedia journalism? Whatever your trade, your art, it’s important to keep yourself fed with inspiration from all quarters.

Even as a journalist I try and consume as much non journalism as possible, and let it seep into my brain. As a visual journalist, on a quest for new styles and approaches, the work of artists in other fields is vital fuel for the fire.

To that end I spend as much time as possible at the wonderful Photojojo, Travel Photographer, Duckrabbit, 500 Photographers, Kitsune Noir, ISO50 and FFFFound.

On being a VJ for the New York Times

Posted in 6x6 series, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on February 10, 2010

The NY Times’ excellent Lens Blog (a must for all photo & visual journalists) has a nice piece with one of their own video journalists.

Brent Macdonald is one of nearly a dozen full time VJs at the paper (they’re supported by more freelancers too) who shoot, edit, sculpt a narrative, script and voice their own material. It’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in video journalism – here are a few choice cuts from Brent:

On kit:

 I ended up in Idaho, with a Hi-Def camera, a tripod, travel cases, three microphones, three compact lights, two light stands, clamps, cables, a laptop computer and, of course, a pair of comfortable shoes.

On audio:

Capturing good sound is often as important as recording dazzling pictures. Viewers tend to forgive an interview that’s poorly framed or lighted, as long as the audio is clean. But a beautifully shot interview with scratchy or distorted audio? Forget it. Nothing will drive a viewer out of a video quicker than bad audio.

On the “shoot-to-edit” ratio:

But it is usually preferable to have too much than too little. On the one hand, the less footage you have, the less time it takes to sift through and edit. On the other hand, if you limit your shots, you risk missing something that could become important during the edit …For VJs, there are no second chances.

On creating a narrative:

Much of the storytelling happens after the shoot, when you sketch the narrative arc, knowing now what material you have to work with. Generally speaking, stories that make for captivating Web video have a strong visual and emotional payoff.

Want more?

Visual Editor’s man Robb Montgomery’s just put together a list of the five most basic things for first time video journalists to remember.

And there’s loads of stuff on this blog, including a 6×6 Video chapter and more.

What can next-generation journalists learn from Les Paul?

Posted in Journalism by Adam Westbrook on August 15, 2009

Les Paul

Les Paul

A music icon of the 20th century passed away this week. Aged 94, Les Paul was still playing weekly gigs in Manhattan right up to his death.

Not just a talented musician, Les Paul was an innovator, and hearing him speak you realise he had within him the skills the journalists of the future will need if they’re to innovate as much as he did.

Last year he spoke to the New York Times about his life, as part of the obituary segment called “The Last Word.

“I was playing one night and this guy comes up to me and says ‘hey, your guitar isn’t loud enough!’ So I thought to myself ‘how can I make my guitar louder?'”

Lesson: Les had a goal – a dream: something to aim for. It was as simple as making his guitar louder, but it set something on fire inside of him.

He attached his guitar strings to his mother’s radio: “and it made the most beautiful sound I ever heard.

“I went to work on wood, shaping it like a beautiful woman…and finally I got it – it took years and years and years of continued working on it.”

Lesson: innovation takes a hell of a lot of work – and a lot of time. But keep working, shaping, building, refining until you get it right.

“I took it to the manufacturers and they kept turning it down, saying it was a novelty.”

Lesson: there’ll be lots and lots of knock backs – but never, ever give up.

From guitarists to journalists to business people to web designers to sports stars: the same passion, dream, determination and perserverance runs through them all.