Brian Storm Explains the New Normal in Photography
Brian Storm is the founder and executive producer of MediaStorm, a multimedia storytelling studio based in Brooklyn, New York. He was the first director of multimedia at MSNBC.com and the former vice president of News, Multimedia, and Assignment Services for Corbis.
MediaStorm created a brand of visual storytelling that inspired one of the most prominent trends in visual journalism of the last decade. The company has won a combined 47 Pictures of The Year International and NPPA Best of Photojournalism awards to go along with 15 Emmy nominations. They have also taken on the role of educators, hosting regular workshops and creating an online training course.
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Onward: Why should photographers feel excited about the direction in which photography is moving?
Brian Storm: It’s not a field you should enter if you want to make a ton of money. You can lead a rich life with incredible experiences, but you aren’t likely going to become wealthy. For me, the excitement is really around the explosive distribution that is now available to visual storytellers. There’s never been a better time in terms of reaching an audience and that is something that really drives storytellers who are on a mission to create change with their work. MediaStorm is almost 10 years old now, but I don’t want to make that a focus of any interview. All I know is that we have very strong client demand for the work that we do, and we can’t meet that demand by ourselves.
Onward: Are there certain trends in photo education that you feel especially positive about?
Brian Storm: I think the trend to think about is adding additional elements to the reporting process – audio and video – are really important because that will allow stories to be richer and be distributed to multiple platforms. MediaStorm invested in Online Training to augment our in person workshops because online training can reach a much bigger audience than we can reach by having everyone come to Brooklyn. We’ve also developed a program specifically for educators to use in their classroom that has been very successful.
Onward: In the past you’ve suggested still photographers work on linear stories. Why do you feel that is so important?
Brian Storm: I love interactivity, but it’s a complicated animal. There are no real standards yet and no one I know has made a real business out of it yet. Asking a photographer to develop a new interactive way of reporting and producing a story is a pretty big leap. I think the best step for us to take in the short run is to add narrative to our visuals and make films. Everyone understands how the play button works to consume a film. The business model for distribution is exploding as well so I think it’s the right area to focus on in 2015.
Onward: Can you speak about the importance of collaboration?
Brian Storm: Making films is a much more collaborative process than shooting stills for print. It takes a variety of skills to create a compelling film and that, in a perfect world, means collaborating with those who have talents outside of your primary skill set.
Doing the coverage is, for us, a two person effort. One person is running camera and another is conducting the interview. For the rest of the reporting we can do it with one person, but having a second camera is a huge benefit. Post production is possible with a single editor, but having input from a variety of team members provides a much broader world view of the final film. Experts with music and motion graphics can really elevate the end product. Once a film is done there’s the whole effort to find distribution and market the film. I don’t know any one person who has all of those skills or that can operate at a very high level in each of these areas of expertise.
Onward: You refer to social media as ‘the gasoline on your fire.’ Explain what that means and also the challenges it presents.
Brian Storm: I’m so blown away by the reach given to our films via social media. Its one of the most powerful marketing tools that has ever existed. One person can share your film with hundreds or thousands of followers with a simple click. One thing we’ve done to brand and protect our films is to develop our own player. We are also starting to license the player and management platform to clients who need the same level of sophisticated packaging that we created for our own products.
Onward: How has the prevalence of photography affected society’s visual literacy?
Brian Storm: It’s such a unique moment in that people are looking at and creating more pictures than at any other time in history. From my perspective, this is great because the audience is actively participating in our craft. When they see an exceptional image they know more now what it took to capture that moment.
Onward: Recently MediaStorm has become more focused on video. How has your relationship with still images changed?
Brian Storm: We are still collaborating with a number of still photographers on their long term projects. We are almost done with a film called Travel Anonymous that showcases Jeff Hutchens‘ artful still images. We are working on a long term project with Christopher Capozziello that will be driven by his intimate still photography of his brother Nick. We remain committed to the power of the still image. With that said, we are adding tools to our storytelling approach all the time. That absolutely includes video and the cinematic skills of our Director of Photography Andrew Michael Ellis. Andrew is in the final stage of an important film called Fight Hate with Love. Our goal with video is to be as visually sophisticated as we try to be with stills.
Onward: Every year there is a scandal in photojournalism related to doctoring images. Is it time to reconsider the ethical standards of the field?
Brian Storm: I don’t think we should reconsider the ethics of photojournalism. Just because technology has changed it doesn’t mean that we should treat the documentation of stories in a less ethical manner.