Multimedia as mediator

If you have been reading my recent blog postings (or attending any of my recent presentations,) you will know I am almost obsessed with multi-media. Although I am interested in multi-media (or new media) as a potential added revenue stream, that is not the main reason I am so interested in the subject. Similarly, though it is the talk of the commercial photography world that is also NOT why I am interested in it.

I am interested in multi-media (or new media as it is sometimes called) because it may yet turn out to be the most complete technology for me to do what really want to do as a photographer. That is, to mediate something that I experience, so a viewer can similarly experience that same thing.

The word media, after all, (which broadly describes the many technological communication channels we use,) comes from the word to mediate, as in “to go between.” Mediate has also taken on a legalistic meaning referring to dispute mediation/resolution, but at its core, the word refers to the act of going between. The media, whether TV, print, photography or the Internet, serves as such a mediator, between the person, place or thing that is being portrayed and the people who are experiencing the portrayal of that thing.

In terms of multi-media, I just finished my next podcast, called “Rodeo, time.” It explores activity at the Tucson Rodeo, which wrapped up in late February. Throughout this blog entry are some of my favorite photographs from the hundreds that I made during the three days I was photographing the rodeo.

The question I am considering is which media does the best job of mediating an experience to another viewer who wants to partake of my interpretation of that experience. I am not sure that we as still photographers can get past what we know and love to seriously consider this question, but I welcome any thoughts or ideas you can offer.

The podcast posts on Wednesday, March 24th. By then, the interested reader will have had a few days to consider these images. The best way to really do this experiment would be to create another multi-media podcast, post that first and then post the still images and see what readers think. The fairest strategy would be posting images first followed by podcast, then post the podcast first followed by images.

What I am trying to get at is exactly how can I convey the most complete version of my experience to the viewer? In the case of the “Rodeo, time” piece, I like to believe that the sound you would not get with still images goes a long way towards conveying the complete sensory experience. I have mixed video and still images as a way to alter the flow of time for the viewer. Still, the podcast does not fully portray the dust in the air and how the hot sun was beating down on me as I was photographing the rodeo.

That physicality of experience is important. My wife says that when she returns to India, she does not feel like she is fully there until the door on the airplane opens and she can breath in India. The humidity in the air as well as the smells she takes in, those are what tell her that she is really home.

I am not sure if “scratch and sniff” technology should be added to multi-media, but there is something to be said for a communication technology that moves beyond the senses of sight and sound to reach more of the five senses.

2 responses to “Multimedia as mediator”

  1. Great rodeo photos! The “photos-in-motion” capture the feel of movement so well. My favorite is the white/grey horse with the rider in black. Almost perfect image of the horse’s stride as it has pushed itself forward, all four feet in the air and reaching for the next purchase with the hind feet.

    Being the avid radio listener I am and realizing the power of sound to involve the listener, I think images and sound can “mediate” much of the experience the photographer is experiencing. I haven’t explored this much myself yet, but have seen some powerful examples (The NY Times One in 8 MIllion is a good one.) Obviously video with sound is powerful, but still images continue to have a power moving images do not. I think it’s because they stop the action and allow the viewer to pause and reflect. While at the same time the audio content can fill in the background adding ambiance and/or content. Still images allow the photographer more freedom to communicate his/her point of view than video because a moment in time is chosen on top of all the other graphic attributes such as subjects, light and composition.

    I’ll look forward to seeing the podcast on Wednesday.

  2. I just came from a lecture by NGS photographer Melissa Farlow; she showed a mixed video/still piece she produced on camel ‘beauty contests’ in Dubai. She said she is doing a lot of pondering on the confluence of still, sound, and video and what the outlets are for these.

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