Let’s face it, photos and words have gone together for a long time now, but digital tech seems to have a lot of people hooked and is often used purely to that end, or so it seems.
In my last post, I mentioned how important the web, the videos, the sound can be for narrative journalism and creative non-fiction. The following three pieces of work, I think, exemplify how those elements together with good writing, can amplify the story, and they’re fascinating pieces to which I’ll no doubt keep returning for inspiration. I hope you’ll enjoy them too.
Last year, Seafood From Slaves, an interactive series by Obin McDowell, Margie Mason, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htusan (Associated Press), drew a powerful portrayal of crime in the seafood industry. Our insatiable appetite for seafood has left the fishing industry in tatters just about everywhere, so this is of global significance.
For a great many Australians, how our fish is sourced is probably not that much of concern. Although some profess to be careful when choosing their seafood, after reading this piece, they may well find themselves hesitating the next time they dither about which california roll to get or the spread at the all-you-can-eat prawn buffet.
The series reinforced how this kind of journalism can help make a difference to people’s lives and I wasn’t surprised that it won a Pulitzer. The segment “22 years a slave” was particularly moving for me.
He had left as a boy, but was returning a 40-year-old man who had been enslaved or in hiding for more than half his life. And he was the only one from his village to come back at all.
When he reached his home state, Myint’s emotions started to fray. He was too nervous to eat. He fidgeted, running his hands through his hair and constantly rubbing the heart-shaped abalone pendant around his neck. Finally, it all became too much, and he started to sob.
“My life was just so bad that it hurts me a lot to think about it,” he choked out. “I miss my mom.”
The Big Sleep by Julia Medew (The Age, 2016) is a beautiful and sensitive account of an elderly couple’s decision to end their own lives, with the full understanding of their daughters. To cast perspective on the couple’s suicide pact, it pieces together, through photos, videos and letters, their lives, their outlook and their tight bond with their children as they made their way to their final moments in October last year.
And then it was time.
Just before noon, the sisters embraced their mother and father and left. There were no tears.
They walked out of their family home and walked down to the cafe where Peter regularly sipped coffee during his “morning totters” with his friend Frank. They wandered on the beach where they had grown up, and waited.
Firestorm, by John Henley and a team from The Guardian in 2013 takes you to a situation you could never imagine or certainly would hope to never be in – caught in a bushfire in Tasmania. The driving issue, explored through meticulously written rigorous research, photos and sound, is how we continue to live, seemingly with heads in the sand and eschewing indigenous knowledge about the land, when the effects of climate change are very much around us.
Now, fanned by a fast-strengthening wind, the big plume of smoke that had been heading off down the coast began to move. It was swinging round, and heading back towards Dunalley.
Tim and Tammy began to realise they might have something to be worried about.
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