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Without words: the power of photo stories

March 18th, 2005 · 2 Comments

Last month, Robert Scoble commented on a post and encouraged me to share my Northern Voice slides using PhotoStory. I’d never considered creating a photo story until I read his comment. Since his suggestion, I’ve started planning a couple potential pieces and researching software. I can’t use PhotoStory itself because my machine doesn’t run XP. We are thinking about upgrading my situation but waiting to make a decision. So I’m treading water at the moment.

Two separate incidents today continued to convince me of the power of photo stories.

An article in Thursday’s Seattle Times Seattle students share sights, sounds with kids across globe highlighted Bridges to Understanding, a local nonprofit that provides mentors in communities around the world, helping adolescents document their lives and share movies with each other through the website.

BRIDGES to Understanding gives voice directly to children around the world.

Our interactive online program connects middle school students in the developed world with their contemporaries in indigenous communities. Central to the program is digital storytelling mentored by professionals and created by students. We provide the tools and training that enable them to tell stories from their own lives and communities.

The girls and I watched a few of the student documentaries, mostly still pictures with voice overs in Quick Time. Seeing Kenyan children using laptops in the midst of what appeared to be simple huts with mud floors amazed me. A movie made by a Navajo boy who visited Seattle described the Northwest in wonderful ways. He had never touched a sea star. He had never seen a body of water as large as Lake Washington. As a native of Seattle I found his observations valuable, spinning my mind with new appreciation for what I take for granted after growing up here. Connecting children across cultures and continents through digital photography and the Internet is an excellent idea, one that any communities could copy by using blogs.

Later tonight I noticed updates in John Porcaro’s blog feed. He doesn’t post every day but it had been a while, for a good reason. On March 5, he was burning a leaf pile when he added the wrong kind of fuel and caught himself on fire. After time spent in Harborview’s burn unit, he appears to be recovering quickly. His post is free of pity and instead filled with people who cared for him and the community rallying around his family at this time. I’ve never met John, although we’ve missed meeting each other (we were both at Scoble’s birthday party earlier this year). Yet looking at the pictures he posted and the PhotoStory he made leaves me speechless, tears in my eyes. It’s hard to see someone as wrapped in bandages as John was. I wish I could do something to make his situation improve. John’s written story had power but it was the pictures that hit home for me what had happened to him, in a way I couldn’t deny or disconnect. The images stay in my mind long after I’ve stopped looking at them.

Pictures leave me without words.

Tags: culture

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Cathy Nickum // Mar 18, 2005 at 10:25 am

    Julie, thank you for this post. Reading about mentoring makes me feel excited and hopeful for young people, especially teenagers, who so desperately need young adults and “non-parents” to inspire them. And visuals are so right-on for teens (a la MySpace)… what a positive vision for the future!

  • 2 Phil // Mar 18, 2005 at 12:08 pm

    Too bad they don’t have a MAC version of PhotoStory!

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