Lesson 6: The Modern Visual Ecosystem

The Modern Visual Ecosystem

Next Step

The Future...

On Sunday, November 8, 2015, the New York Times thudded onto the porches of subscribers with a cardboard box stuffed inside the bag. With a little folding and a little imagination, the box wasn't so different from the stereoscopic image viewers Michael Lesy demonstrated in Lesson 1.

But this cardboard box was no antique. Paired with a smartphone and a free app, the box became a virtual reality headset that took viewers on an immersive video trip into the lives of three young refugees. From your living room, you could look up at the sky over a Lebanese refugee camp or down at a swamp in the South Sudan. Wired magazine wrote that the story likely "hooked a generation" on virtual reality.

For photojournalists, new technologies and storytelling approaches are par for the course. The 21st century has been a blur of changes for the visual world. The year 2000 marked the adoption of digital SLR cameras like the Nikon D1 at many news outlets; in 2006, Facebook opened up to anyone older than 13; in 2007, the iPhone debuted with a quality built-in camera, and in 2010, Instagram was founded. Humans of New York, a portrait project maintained by an ex-bond trader on Facebook, today has more likes than Life Magazine ever had subscribers. It's a new visual world.

...and the Visual Journalists Embracing It

Amidst all this disruption, it's notable how visual journalists have successfully adopted these new technologies to tell better stories. From the Guardian to ESPN to Pitchfork, multimedia longform stories (often called "snowfall" stories) have caught on with journalists and with readers. What unites these snowfall stories is a deep respect for the power of visual storytelling, be it still photography, video, data visualization or a combination of all three.

Renown visual journalists are succeeding across the visual world with creative ideas. Photographer Alec Soth crowdfunds projects on Kickstarter and sells subscriptions to newspapers of his documentary road trips. Lauren Greenfield became well-known thanks to incisive photo essays about wealth, beauty and childhood. She used those skills to make the 2012 documentary film The Queen of Versailles, which won her a best director award from the Sundance Film Festival. Ed Ou and Taryn Simon have given Ted Talks, and Ed Kashi, who has won every photo award in the books over the past 30 years, has a great Instagram feed.

In short, there's never been a more exciting time in the visual world. How will you be a part of it?

Next Step

Now it's your turn.

Log into Moodle to complete the Lesson 6 exercise.