In many ways sound is the ultimate visual medium. When we listen to something, or someone, we create images in our mind.
One of the clichés of photography, particularly humanitarian photography, is that it gives people a voice. Watch the video on the front page of the VISA website to see exactly what I mean. But if you break down why images are selected by editors, photographers and even NGO’s, hardly ever is the dominant reason that they feel the image gives the person in the photo a voice. That’s not a discussion that you will hear in editorial meetings. Aesthetics, information or emotional manipulation remain the dominant drivers of the images that we see (all good reasons to pick a photo).
As more and more and more and more and more and more (into infinity it seems) photographers scramble to get noticed the situation will only get worse. (here’s an example of what I mean on Burn Magazine)
I think one of the major differences between radio documentary and photography is that radio producers tend to know when something is over-produced, indulgent, mawkish or just crap, and generally they are happy to say so. Even though audio producers are dealing with people’s voices, they rarely, if ever, make claims about what their programmes can or can’t achieve. For me it’s always enough to know that someone is listening.
Below is a photofilm by Claire Barthelemy one of my students at The London College Of Communication.
I’ve shown this brilliant photofilm at pretty much every training I’ve run in the last year. It splits opinion, but I love it.
I defy anyone to watch this photofilm and not afterwards be happy to sit and have a cup of coffee with the man featured in it. Given his situation that’s a major leap for many people.
In this film we see the person, because we hear him. That makes all the difference.