In 2012, I received a phone call from an old friend of mine. He had seen some of my video documentary work and wanted to know if I was interested in making a documentary about a man transitioning to be a woman. I was curious about this documentary adventure, so I said “sure, who”, and he said “me”.
I had known him since middle school and although I didn’t object to the news, I had trouble processing it, so I decided I was too close to the subject to make a documentary myself. A few days later, I was talking to Tyler about It and he said he would be interested in taking up the work as a photo essay. After a few sessions with Maddy(formerly Matt), Tyler and I decided to interview her and make a multimedia piece about her. That is how my first successful photo dominant multimedia documentary came to be.
The following film was photographed by Tyler Wirken. I produced and edited the piece, with both of us conducting the interview.
Madelyn’s piece is about wanting to live as your fully realized self. By making the film and forcing myself to listen to my long time friend as Madelyn instead of Matt, I realized that they have always been the same person. Our societal gender norms had forced her to not be honest to herself, which nearly drove her to suicide. It solidified my commitment to creating a safe space around myself and supporting truth and love above all things.
This film also solidified my belief that the still imagery is a very powerful tool. The still image forces you to linger on the subject while listening to their story. It forces you to confront them, and see them more fully than motion does. It also forces the photographer and multimedia artist to understand their intention and be purposeful in all the things they are doing.
Another source of inspiration for me at that time was the New York Times series One in 8 million. It really hammered home my love of stories about everyday people being unique in every way.
It was with the understanding from Maddy and from the One in 8 Million series that my short lived personal project A Kansas City Story was born. I already wrote about my first subject, Keenan. You can read about it and watch the video here. Here is another one from the project: Mikey.
A Kansas City Story had personally set limitations. I called it in my head the 5x5 challenge. Five hours to photograph and five hours to edit. I admit I cheated a bit on some of them but mostly I stuck to that challenge. I loved this project. If time allowed I’d make one every week. The formula is simple. I find someone, anyone, document their lives, do a quick interview and edit it together.
My love for it and how quickly I could put them together made me want to show others how to do it. I felt strongly pulled to teaching. Thus my first multimedia workshop was born. I called it the Untold Multimedia Workshop because we were doing a bit of work under that branding at the time. Here is a film from that workshop by Katrina Hannemann. It ended up being included in my KC story collection.
The struggle that happens within the confines of a workshop puts a spotlight not only on what the student needs to learn, but also highlights what the instructor needs to learn. In the case of this workshop and the workshops I’ve taught since, it has further solidified my belief in celebrating everyone in my work. That celebratory attitude continues, even after I had to get a full time job. Which is the subject of my next post!
That’s it for Multimedia Obsession Part Three. Next week I’ll talk about getting a full time photography job and how that has informed and inspired more multimedia work.
If you are a photographer who wants to learn more about photo dominant multimedia work, then you should join us at Camp this year. Even if you never use multimedia as a complete tool, understanding all aspects of media creation can help you think of how to tell better stories for your clients in any field. Come to camp, learn to tell multimedia stories while becoming a better photographer and help out Camp Encourage.