#SXSW2014: The Advent of Social Photojournalism and “instagramming the news”

In today’s tech and new media dialogue, “disruption” is one of the most overused of phases when describing the change technology and the web has enacted across a number of industries. Of the “disrupted”, few are more referenced than traditional news media. The web is now a standard part of first world media consumption, with “traditional” media players needing to transform their tools of storytelling and engagement as a result.

Today’s Instagramming the News (#TIMEsxsw) session at SXSW delivered fascinating insights into efforts a few high-profile international media organisations are making in this area, revealing the ways Instagram has changed the toolkit of photo-journalists and major international publications, who now deliver real-time news coverage via visual social media platforms like Instagran, resulting in an emerging new language of socialised visual story-telling.

Insights and work from American AP journalist David Guttenfelder headlined the session, showing us his techniques to deliver a new, close up, intimate images of te highly-controlled nation of North Korea. Working in a country beholden to strict censorship and limited opportunities for international media to deliver critique and insight, David’s Instagram storytelling gives him unrivaled access to get much closer to the people, places and work of the country, delivering an more honest, intimate and personal account of their stories. His stories are then filed to the AP news network at a click of the “send button”. Storytelling at the speed of social.

He spoke of the “discreetness” of the iPhone as an imaging tool – Allowing him to venture into places and spaces where images were captured easily, without the intrusion of a conventional photo-journalist tool of choice, a DSLR camera. For audiences viewing his work far away, he also spoke of it giving him an intimacy and dialogue with his audiences, where he could respond to queries or clarify the meaning of image elements if required. Two way communication, that delivers a speed and connection not seen before.

With this in mind, if we start thinking about the toolkit, the technology really isn’t what’s so important anymore. Both cameras and mobiles are seen as equals in visual storytelling, and innovative media companies are taking this as an opportunity to broaden the opportunities new social media and hybrid gadgets deliver in the hands of their storytellers. The images are completely “authentic” – No additions or accessories places on the iPhones to enhance or change the image. The imaged delivered is the true reality of what is seen by the image maker.

Watch the National Geographic video below for an insight into David’s incredible work, and how he’s used his skill to tell North Korea’s true story. Some great commentary from the session can be found from fellow SXSW attendee Jamie Russell on Storify.

Which “traditional” media outlets have you seen transforming their storytelling capabilities through platforms like Instagram? What effects has this had on the stories they tell? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s