Visual Storytelling

Session Title — Writing Visually
Session Speaker — Joe Gisondi and Brian Poulter of Eastern Illinois University

Overview — The same elements of an amazing and captivating photo can easily translate into story telling.

The hierarchy of photos and articles:

This represents the who, when, what, where, why and how.  It’s the bare minimum, often just the facts without any flavor. Often used for hard news and breaking news.

This is when compositional devices begin to be used.  In photos that means rules of thirds, frame within a frame, grouping, etc.  For writers it’s about beginning to get the details.  Looking at the main event and the chain reaction the event causes.  Shooting the people witnessing something and their reactions is just as important, if not more, than the actual event.

Signs of a graphic story:

  • noticing the details
  • focusing on areas
  • variety of sentences lengths
  • proving you were present at what you are writing about

At the risk of sounding obvious, emotional writing and emotional photos are meant to do one thing — draw emotion.  Emotional stories and photos always work because they draw the reader/viewer into the situation.  They become invested.  Finding the emotional stories can be easier than you think, all you have to do is look around campus and see the real human reaction.

All subjects of stories and photos are more than one-dimentional.  Treat them like the humans they are, multilayer and complex.

This takes time.  You can go up to someone and ask intimate questions or snap a photo in someone’s face.  A relationship needs to be built and to fade into the background.  In these circumstances, you become a part of the scenery and the walls of your subject begin to drop.  These stories could possibly fall in your lap but more than likely you will have to invest large amount of time and find the conflict.

My take — My writing has taken a turn for the informational and sometimes graphic storytelling.  I’ve been thinking about it since we began looking for Hearst Award submissions.  Could any of my articles qualify?  I write mostly crime, breaking news and occasional softer stories.  And while the session speaker was quick to point out there was nothing wrong with the first two types of writing, they can easily be forgotten.  I don’t want the stories I write to fade from memory.  Not from the selfish reason (though I would be a liar if I didn’t admit it plays some part in it) but because I wanted to become a journalist to tell stories.  Stories that are often overlooked and under appreciated.  And what good am I do if those stories are forgotten?

I’ve been thinking a great deal on my goals and the things I would like to accomplish before I graduate.  Now is the time to really start finding those intimate stories.  I’ve mulled some ideas in the recent weeks and after this session, I’m determined to make my writing more meaningful.  Any thoughts or advice? How do you make your writing more meaningful? How do you make sure your writing leaves has a lasting impression or makes an impact. Leave a comment or tweet at me anna_m_johnson

–Anna Johnson


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