That’s all you get.
Two whole minutes to change someone’s perception of the world.
That seems like an impossible task, but in a world of fast food, cars and money; people expect their information to keep up. As the breakfast around the table with a cup of Joe and a newspaper is being replaced by caramel macchiatos in rush hour on the way to work, the way of information needs to be quicker… two minutes quick!
As a photojournalist, I have always sided that visuals are a clear and quick way of getting a certain point of view across. This past year, I’ve only confirmed my belief in photography and video as a powerful tool for awareness.
Small Change Fund, a non-profit charitable organisation that supports small and local grassroots organisations all across Canada, had me join their team as the multimedia intern. They had an idea for a campaign called the Seven Small Wonders of Canada and included seven selected projects to be showcased on the website.
The main problem we found with the projects was that a lot of these organisations were very small and did not have material to showcase on the site. Low quality pictures with a couple of handy cam interviews were all we had to put a campaign together. I was then hired in order to visit all seven of the projects in order to really get some good information.
I had the opportunity to visit each project and create videos, take pictures and write blogs about my experience. I made videos for each project which were put on the website in order for people to see first hand the projects they were donating to. The ability to have video for each project was truly special and had a direct impact on most of the projects being fully funded.
Video gives you the ability to see and experience information from all over the world in minutes. Speed is one benefit of video—you can put a lot of information about an organisation in a video and still have it be captivating to the viewer. But it is not the only benefit. One of the greatest joys of my job is the ability to have people tell their own stories. I believe that having people tell their own story is much more powerful and a real way to evoke empathy in your viewer.
While working for Small Change Fund, one the projects was in the province of New Brunswick. I was on the Acadian Coast where the people are officially bilingual. Literally meaning they will switch from French to English, back to French and then back again to English all in the same sentence! It is very much a part of their culture and their uniqueness. The project I was there to report on was also about their unique coast and how they were going to have to deal with the inevitability of coastal erosion due to climate change. I decided to really show emphasise all these points in my video. I utilised the people that lived on the coast, hearing their stories of floods, friends and romance that the coast had to offer. I heard these stories in both French and English. Only by capturing video of this project were you able to see and hear the unique and corky feel that I witnessed only by coming to this area. It was a very special place and the people had such as great energy that having the video to pair with the project really made people want to donate.
Video can bring a project to life like it did for the one in New Brunswick, but it can also save lives, like the project I did while in the North West Territories. The Revisit to the Berger Inquiry project was a great example of the power of journalism. For a little Canadian history, the original Berger Inquiry was a report that was revolutionary for its time 35 years ago. The proposed Mackenzie Valley Pipeline was to be built in 1974 and was to be the biggest private construction project in history. It was to be built from the Beaufort Sea to markets in the south but before it was to be built a report had to be made on the impact it would have on the North’s economy, environment and people. Justice Thomas Berger was appointed to do this report but no one expected the results he gave. The report ultimately stopped the pipeline from being built and showed that the people of Canada are important. Berger embarked on a three-year mission across the Arctic talking to the local people and what the pipeline would do to their way of life. The hearings that followed showcased the voices of the Dene people and ultimately stopped all plans on a pipeline.
Now, once again the plan for a pipeline is moving forward. The Dehcho Devisional Education Council believed the solution was to educate. They invited original participants from the Berger Inquiry to share their photos, audio and experience of the inquiry with the Dehcho children. All along the Mackenzie River, reporter Drew Ann Wake, photographer Linda MacCannell, journalist Peter Gorrie, lawyer Michael Jackson and creator of maps of Dene land use Elizabeth Hardisty, talked and did workshops with the Dene youth to connect them back to their ancestors and teach them how to active citizens in their communities. The workshops that the students received consisted of radio and print journalism, videography and photography. In this example, video was not just helping the project, but video was a large part of the project itself. It is giving youth all across the Mackenzie River the skills to record their culture, critically ask questions, and ultimately make them more aware and educated about their role in keeping their land pipeline free.
The Small Change Fund campaign was a great way for me to show how much video can help an organisation. The donations rose after the videos were posted to the website and in some cases completely funded! People now could see first hand the land they were helping save, or the youth they were funding to go to camp, or the supplies they bought for the canning workshops. With one small video, the people receiving and donating money are on the same page of where it is going and proof of what it will be used for-- and in the non-profit world that is a huge advantage.
Videos give you faces and voices of the people directly impacted and that connection to the story cannot be faked. As a photojournalist, I strive everyday to help people tell their stories because I truly believe that it is important. So I challenge you to watch a video…
That’s all you get
Two whole minutes to change YOUR perception of the world.