Our life in 4K
The world of photojournalism is changing. And it is changing fast.
It only feels like yesterday when I think back on our early days of “multimedia”. But in reality it was ten years ago. Ten years…
Bombay Flying Club was a result of almost childish play and curiosity between a couple of good friends who were studying together at the Danish School of Media and Journalism. Our goal back then was clear; we wanted to take advantage of new media and to explore new web based tools to take parts of traditional photojournalism into unknown territory. Little did we know how our profession was about to change. Little did we know how difficult it would be to convince medias, editors, companies, organisations and journalistic institutions to embrace a new format. Little did we know how social media platforms would revolutionize and forever change the way we connect, talk to each other and market ourselves. Little did we know…
Streetlight was a flash- and stills based audio driven narrative produced by us in 2009. For months we experimented with ways of turning our stories into responsive, full screen experiences.
When we finally succeeded in late 2008 we mastered a storytelling technology that no other media at the time could rival.
For non-photojournalists it is hard to understand the technical evolution in photojournalism that many of us have been through this past decade (and I feel stupidly old writing this).
Before 2009 we in BFC put all our focus, free time and spare change into Flash based and audio driven multimedia narratives. Flash gave us new ways of communicating photojournalism out to the masses by adding layers upon layers of information, audio and graphics. It took our stories from provincial Denmark to DC in just a flick. Very few photographers back then understood the mechanisms, the coding and the way to approach this experimental visual storytelling model for online audiences exclusively. The few who did, like former New York Times Multimedia Editor Andrew DeVigal and former Executive Editor of Magnum in Motion Bjarke Myrthu are all “former” today. But they keep taking chances and they keep venturing into unknown territories because they have this urge, passion and a drive to explore new ways of broadening and deepening our understanding of visual communication. Like us; they simply like to investigate new ways of (visual) communication.
The arrival of the Canon 5D II changed photojournalism forever. Not in the sense that the camera changed the way that we shoot photographs but the fact that it gave us this new cinematic video tool to expand the way that we had worked traditionally. For well established photographers like Vincent La Foret it became a career changer. For mortals like us (now with babies) it forced us into another behavioural change. For a few years it was quite easy. Flash was d(r)ying out and became the old tool. We jumped head first into a new world in Full HD and started to study story structure and narrative plots. We did workshops all over the world and shot and produced short documentaries that focused on character driven storytelling. We started to learn the basics of audio, editing and VFX. Nobody taught us these things, we just played around with them during the late hours while learning the hard way from our many mistakes.
Some doors closed while others opened. We were caught in our own e-v-o-l-u-t-i-o-n.
In 2012 I went down to Ethiopia to do my own story about a Danish surgeon who worked tirelessly on a remote village hospital.
I paid my own expenses on the trip and barely made the money back. The work was incredibly rewarding for me and taught me a lot about storytelling and visual structure.
I still know tons of talented and very successful photographers today who haven’t embraced video (yet) and who are still sceptic about what photojournalists like us are doing. And that’s ok. There will always be room for those who understand how to excel and monetise a niche and those who are driven by true will and passion. But with time the old dinosaurs will succumb – it’s school book knowledge.
We get a lot of emails nowadays from young photojournalists asking for advice on how to do this and how to do that. We help them when we have spare time but we also encourage them to figure things out for themselves. The best way of learning is by trying and by playing around with things. This is the only way to truly figure out why some things work and some things don’t. Sure, it’s always a good option to lean on someone who has the knowledge… and maybe even take a short cut. But you won’t be able to pioneer anything if you don’t have the guts experiment yourself. If you ask us how to tell your story you will end up with how we tell your story.
The point is this; find your own voice. Be a legend with your work. Take chances. Win. Fail.
Here is something that might come as disturbing fact to you: you’re not special by profession anymore. You’re now in this big muddy pool of talented creatives – and the bar has been raised incredibly. You are up against the virals, the super talented 8 y.o kid with the 4K iPhone, the community of well established and top professional creatives on Movidiam, the amateur photographer who is a master at networking, the idiots who take on the big jobs for pennies and the personal voices who successfully made it through their own journeys and now always end up as Vimeo Staff Picks.
So; this is our life. It’s in glorious 4K at the moment. Next year it might be in VR.
There are things we don’t fully understand about it yet but that’s exactly what keeps us alive in this crazy business.