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Intimate journalism: thoughts from a veteran and a beginner (part 1)

By Digital Storytelling December 22, 2009

Storyboard recently talked about visual storytelling and intimacy with two very different journalists: an independent 30-year veteran and a newsroom staff photographer just two years out of graduate school. Tomorrow, we’ll learn what it was like for a seasoned pro to turn a camera on his own family in the midst of crisis. Today, we hear from Sonya Hebert of The Dallas Morning News, who finished a master’s program in visual communications in 2007. Hebert’s two large-scale efforts to date include a look into adult palliative care at Baylor University and a portrait of a family whose baby lived only five days as a result of a genetic defect. Her video of the baby and his parents pairs beautifully with the print story in “Choosing Thomas," a multimedia project selected earlier this year as a Notable Narrative. On trying to shoot intimate pictures of sick adults under less-than-ideal conditions, Hebert says, “What we saw over and over again was a patient in a bed in a hospital room. Visually it looked all the same, so it required tuning out what I was hearing, and really looking. Thinking, ‘How can I tell this story visually?’ Sometimes it was getting tight in on someone and waiting for them to look up in a certain way in a dark room—being ready for something to happen.” Later, Hebert struggled with the challenge of making Thomas, a terminally-ill baby, fully human for viewers: “In the middle of editing, I didn’t feel like the reader could fall in love with Thomas. I was worried about doing a story about a baby to begin with, and he was tougher, because he didn’t do a lot. There were just a few moments where he was like a normal little baby and you could see how cute he was. There’s a clip where he’s sneezing, and TK is saying, ‘Oh, that was my eye!’ It was something to bring a lighter side to the story before we got into the heavy dying part.” Read the full interview. Read more

Comic book news: survival tales (part 3)

By Digital Storytelling November 17, 2009

[Part 1 of this series looked at the turn toward individuals telling true stories via comics, while Part 2 illustrated how comics began to use a subjective vantage point to record history.] [caption id="attachment_1098" align="alignleft" width="239" caption="Le Photographe, Tome 3/Dupuis"][/caption] Emmanuel Guibert’s and Didier Lefèvre’s Le Photographe moves the field of nonfiction comics toward narrative journalism by revealing the documentary potential of graphic storytelling. Guibert recounts the journey of a photographer (Lefèvre) who records the work of a Medecins Sans Frontières mission in northeastern Afghanistan in 1986. Released in France between 2003 and 2006, the three volumes span 260 pages and follow Lefèvre from Pakistan to Afghanistan and back. Though its achievements are similar to those of Joe Sacco’s Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde (discussed in Part 2 of this series), Le Photographe unfolds in radically different form. The series’ most striking aspect is the unusual combination of documentary photography (Lefèvre's original work) and highly stylized drawings. Read more » Read more

Comic book news: Joe Sacco draws on history (part 2)

By Digital Storytelling November 13, 2009

Part 2 of a look at graphic narrative journalism [Part 1 discussed how “comics journalism” rose from the underground and independent comics scene to combine conventions of the traditional comic book with telling personal, true stories.] The 1990s “indie” comics scene saw two trends. One reflected an almost neurotic drive to get away from the power fantasies of superhero stories. Using a careless graphic style that emphasized the pathologically normal, authors told stories from the point of view of a “defeatist,” in the words of comics artist Joe Sacco. On the other hand, this was the era in which American non-superhero comics also started engaging with topics bigger than the middle-class suburbs of their creators. Inspiration came from the sudden acceptance of comics in the wake of Art Spiegelman's 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Maus, which also built a bridge between the artistic language of the European bande dessinée and its comparatively low-brow American cousin. Bringing these two trends together, the first issue of Joe Sacco's Palestine came out in 1993, followed by nine original single comic book issues. Trained as a journalist, Sacco tells the story of the two months he spent in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip between 1991 and 1992. Read the full story » Read more