Archive for February, 2010


Open For Business

February 20, 2010

I am back in the heat of it all……or should I say, back in the snowy lands of Syracuse.

Spring semester is in full gear, yet I haven’t been able to get into a stride.  This seems to be the common mode of operation though, never feeling like you are done with any multimedia project.

I am pursuing my interests in longer-form story telling through a documentary production class this semester.   My direction is unknown, but I feel I should explore any area of interest during this re-tooling period.   Will I return to newspapers as a more versatile player? Will I venture into independent production?  Will I explore specialized Internet start-ups providing content in new ways?   Will I even have a choice?

My final multimedia project from last semester grew into an overwhelming challenge, both in its story development and in the crafting of the edit. I felt like I was moving into a new realm of trial and error.  I might have moved too quickly into a longer-form project since there is great benefit in knowing how to really capture a focused story in two to three minutes.   Despite this, I felt like I was being boxed in with this limitation.  What if I wanted to tell a bigger story with more complexity? I have been giving that a try.

I returned to school eagerly wanting to finish this project and I immediately hit a wall with two of the three subjects in the piece.  They had moved on during the holiday break and it seems they didn’t fully grasp the time commitment this might involve.   This certainly was my fault; I have learned to be more upfront at the beginning, letting subjects know all my intentions.  After multiple cancellations or in the other’s case, no response, I realized I would have to stick with the footage that I had.

This experience makes me think about the dynamics between a subject and the photographer.  I get the privilege to enter into people’s lives very quickly and I try my best not to abuse this privilege.    I explain my goals, I proceed carefully and I remain respectful.  So now having had a subject back away before a project is complete, makes me wonder about a subject’s responsibility in this process.   In the end, the subject doesn’t have to responsible and the option to no longer play ball is always lingering.   Yet during those emotional moments of frustration, I can’t help but wish for the same level of respect – especially after many hours of work together.  It is bold to have those expectations; this is something I need to patiently adjust and reconfigure.

I was reading a book on documentary production and the author warned of this very situation, how a story can fall apart or shift so quickly due to the everyday realities of our subjects.   It is something all storytellers need to navigate.

A subject’s own life demands and needs are rarely dependent on any ambitious goal a photographer has stirred up.   It may just be a “school project” in their eyes, something that isn’t seen as significant or transformational due to their unfamiliarity with the process.

Maybe that crossing-of-paths moment just had to be short lived.