Everybody reading this blog in the past knows where I stand when it comes to our future: I am strongly of the opinion that paper as a medium for daily news will slowly fade out (actually, not so slowly…) and the future is elsewhere.
Let me just refer you to my last post – and leave it to that. Everything discussed there is actually just a reflection of this structural change. Everything which is happening is just symptom of this – and as with any fatal disease, symptoms tend to get very, very painful.
Instead of just sucking it up and biting it together, trying survive in an ever narrowing, soon extinct market, signing more and more copyright restricting contracts, dropping your already low fees even lower… maybe one should do something about it? Be creative and constructive – and build for the future?
About year and a half ago I formed a company called DocImages. The underlying idea was simple: to promote multimedia production and to create a platform for the young talent to showcase their work in our country. Distribute that work. Offer education beyond the basics of creating a simple linear slideshows and build a creative environment and network of people who would like to push this further, learn multimedia to the level it should have in our daily media.
Daily media which in the future – it should be obvious by now – will not be printed on a physical page and delivered to your mailbox.
With a friend and a colleague (and a former student of mine couple of years back) Tatu Blomqvist, who is presently writing his master’s thesis on linear multimedia narrative and working on his own projects in Glasgow, we started planning on this for real couple of months ago. And what you see on our site now is the first version of this work.
What do we do?
Very simple: we do multimedia. Whatever that means: linear and non-linear. Consisting of photography, video, audio, panoramic images, text, info graphics – you name it. On commission and sometimes on spec, sometimes just to learn new things. Many of the examples on the site are actually done this way: “well, I wonder how would one do….” and then you go and figure it out.
I have been teaching multimedia now for four years in the University of Tampere (and starting this year also in TaiK and Lahden Muotoiluistituutti – a joint project) and it has bothered me that there is no real path for anybody who is interested in this to pursue it further. For Tatu it’s been the same – he’s been teaching the basics of linear multimedia in Tampere now for two years – but to finish off his MSc he had to leave for UK to get some further guidance.
Multimedia in the daily media practically does not exist in Finland – and the couple of places where it does, it leaves a lot to hope for. So the young aspiring talent I have had the honor of teaching every year really have no place to go after they learn the basics.
That’s where we come in, trying to offer some solution to this dilemma. What we do is eventually intended for (commercial) publication – i.e. it is for sale. Yes, as I said, we are totally aware that presently there really is no market for this in Finland – but if you think our media scene is in “a quiet, tranquil state of status quo…” – then you have not been paying attention lately. So think again.
Seriously: take an iPad into your hand and try to envision the media as you would like to see it in say five years time. You think it’ll be 500 characters of text and one single image taken with a cell phone? That will be enough? Seriously?
And: if it is, we are not part of. We don’t want to be part of it.
We teach each other inside our own team. In the future we might do that outside as well (i.e. offer commercially available workshops). We focus heavily on visual storytelling in all possible forms – including forms which might not exist yet. We try to work keeping all the doors open platformwise: i.e. everything we do will take e.g. iPad into consideration but not be limited to that device only.
Which in practice means that everything we do we try to do in HTML5 and keep the content adaptive and responsive. Very much like you see our website operating (try scaling it very narrow so you see how it looks on e.g. iPhone).
Who are “we”?
I used the word “team” above. When I mentioned DocImages in class this past fall in Tampere I almost immediately was approached by two students. We talked about it and agreed that I would – as a learning and workflow experiment – produce a version of their academic final work for the annual POY (Vuoden Lehtikuva) -multimedia contest.
We set to work – majority of which was accomplished around Xmas and the New Year while I was working in Germany and Austria in the Vierschanzentournee.
As a collaborative process it was probably the most educational and rewarding an experience I have ever had. Seriously: three of us in different parts of the world, talking over FB twice a day at least, comparing versions, editing… Totally amazing. Going crazy with internet connections not working fast enough (both of these two multimedia have three different video versions/formats) – deadline approaching, me getting stuck in a snowstorm in the Austrian alps… But most importantly, the collaboration together , brainstorming, exchanging ideas… the whole process of creating something together. Totally awesome, I’m sure we all agree on that one.
Arttu Muukkonen‘s work is a story of a organic farmer Juuso Joona, who is taking care of his family farm in Joutseno, Finland.
In class we have a pretty strict rule that everything has to fit within 2 minutes. It’s cruel, but pedagogically very justified. In this version Arttu had a little bit more room to play with the narrative as well as audio elements – and the result ( – and I know I am the wrong person to say this) is truly great. I did the web coding and some bells and whistles… but it is really Arttu’s visual narrative which is so captivating. The meticulous eye for details.
Sabrina Bqain‘s work is about a circus family and their daily lives. Very small, poignant… and simply beautiful. Again – yes, I know I am the wrong person to say this but I truly love it. She approached me sometime in the fall for advice as she wanted to know where our profession was going… what she would be doing when she graduated with a fresh MSc in Photojournalism. I had no answer – I still don’t – but I think we are finding the route together now. She shows great potential as a photographer – yes, there are things to learn, but so are there for all of us.
I really try to make a point that this is “we” – because one thing I have learned during the past couple of years is that powerful multimedia is definitely a team effort. You can do it alone – I’ve done it dozens of times – but I’d say the results are always superior, when there are other people contributing. And it’s much more fun to do, that’s something I have learned now as producer.
If you look around on our site, many pieces of work are mine alone, however. This is the result of me experimenting with different types and forms of non-linear storytelling – typically when the client has not really even determined what they want (that’s a polite way of saying “not knowing what they want… ), basically giving you a brief of “well… do some of that your funky multimedia stuff“. This was the case for the Vancouver Olympics, for instance, where I produced a series of multimedia for ALMA-Media.
Or sometimes it has been just a simple case of having an idea “This would be cool, it should be done… now how do I accomplish it?” – such as the Pentti Koskinen multimedia. I did it to honor his retrospective exhibition now in the fall – and this piece will be expanded to c. 10-15 other photography legends, if we manage to pull the financing together to continue it.
Goes without saying that if you have done this as long as I have you are pretty well-connected. Thus “the team” consists not only of the four people mentioned by name and showcased presently on the site. There are people in the background, working in journalism , photography and documentary filmmaking who are already involved in some projects to come – but it would not be correct to start dropping names here. We are already working with several new projects – I personally have two projects which are under way. And naturally we welcome new people with new ideas who would like to take this to the next level with us.
We are doing a workshop on FCX in couple of weeks time – and learning, learning, learning… The amount of computer programs one has to have in the “multimedia toolbox” is pretty extensive, but we have a pretty good hang of it. And software is just one part of it – as everyone who has ever heard me talking about this knows :-) . And as we are several people we can distribute the responsibilities a bit (such one person is more into native HTML5 and another person into iPad publishing thru InDesign – or somebody is more at ease with WP and somebody else more with Drupal).
Should everything go as planned, Tatu will be joining Duckrabbit (UK) for multimedia workshop later this year and I am doing the same with MediaStorm in New York. We are very much interested in the same themes (human rights, environment, general fairness, immaterial things, degrowth, media and the future of photojournalism…) so I am sure we manage to cook up some funky projects together.
Not forgetting naturally commissioned work – which as you notice in my case is very much focused on sports. I am already assigned to do e.g. London Olympics, so I am sure we have something to show from there.
Steve Jobs said something almost exactly two years ago (January 10th 2010) when Apple launched the iPad and it has been haunting me ever since:
“Those people who can stand at the intersection of the humanities and science, the liberal arts and technology – that intersection – are the people who can change the world.’”
We strongly believe that it is that intersection where we want to be.