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Brian Storm, Founder of MediaStorm

April, 2010

by Adriana Teresa

Matt Eich and Melissa Turk

Photo by Matt Eich and Melissa Turk

Brian Storm is president of MediaStorm, a multimedia production studio based in Brooklyn, New York. Prior to launching MediaStorm in 2005, Storm spent two years as vice president of News, Multimedia & Assignment Services for Corbis, a digital media agency founded and owned by Bill Gates. From 1995 to 2002 he was director of multimedia at MSNBC.com. Storm received his master’s degree in photojournalism in 1995 from the University of Missouri. He lives in New York City.

MediaStorm‘s principal aim is to usher in the next generation of multimedia storytelling by publishing social documentary projects incorporating photojournalism, interactivity, animation, audio and video for distribution across multiple media.

Adriana Teresa: What is contemporary photography within your forum.

Brian: What we value most is story. Of course, we are big believers in the power of still photography and the still image plays a vital role in our projects. We try to advance the context of a single moment by adding audio, video, music and text.

For example, Danny Wilcox Frazier’s project Driftless is a classic picture essay produced with a more cinematic focus. Danny spent five years documenting the changing economy in his home state. Our goal in producing the piece is to help realize his vision by combing all the materials gathered in the reporting process. The result is a modern day picture essay created through a passionate collaboration.

Driftless on MediaStorm
Driftless: Stories from Iowa by Danny Wilcox Frazier
As the economies of rural communities across America fail, abandonment is becoming commonplace. Driftless explores a Midwest that resides in shadows, a people quietly enduring America’s new economic reality. See the project at mediastorm.org/0025.htm

AT: What do you look for in a photographic series or a photographer today that you didn’t look for three years ago?

Brian: A variety of things, but one important element I look for now is the possibility to create positive change.

The journalistic goal of creating awareness of an issue is still important, but given the global connections that can be made now via the blogosphere and the statusphere I’m now looking for projects that have a call to action that can go viral and do some good in the process.

For example, Jonathan Torgovnik’s Intended Consequences has helped to raise awareness about the legacy of genocide in Rwanda, but also inspired people to donate money to Foundation Rwanda. Torgovnik established the foundation to help put these children born of rape through secondary school as well as help these woman get the support they need to deal with the trauma of rape.

Intended Consequences on MediaStorm
Intended Consequences by Jonathan Torgovnik
An estimated 20,000 children were born from rapes committed during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Intended Consequences chronicles the lives of these women. Their narratives are embodied in portrait photographs, interviews and oral reflections about the daily challenges they face today. See the project at mediastorm.org/0024.htm

AT: What is the goal of your online Forum in regards to Photography? Why is this your focus?

Brian: We want to showcase universal stories that help people better understand the complex issues of our time. We don’t do breaking news coverage, we don’t do quantity. We are focused on creating quality projects that will matter for a long time. As such, photojournalists working on long-term, personal projects are our most consistent collaborators.

One of the keys to success in this process is having a narrative element that allows us to provide greater context. I’ve been trying to get photojournalists to gather audio since 1993 because if we have audio (or video) interviews of the subjects then we can create cinematic projects that can be distributed more broadly.

We are trying to help photojournalists, artists and filmmakers reach a larger audience through multimedia stories that playback on a variety of platforms including broadcast, the web and mobile as well as physical exhibits and museums.

As an example, see how Jesse and Dionn are given a voice to tell their story in their own words in Jessica Dimmock’s The Ninth Floor.

The Nineth Floor
The Ninth Floor by Jessica Dimmock
Hidden in an elegant building in a wealthy Manhattan neighborhood, was a sprawling apartment filled with young drug addicts. This is the story of their battle with addiction, each other, and themselves as they search for some kind of redemption. See the project at mediastorm.org/0021.htm

AT: What would you say is the most significant progression in photography today?

Brian: Two things: The tools and distribution. In regards to tools, we’ve had an incredible advancement in fidelity, ease of use and a dramatic reduction in cost.

It used to cost $250,000 for a broadcast quality production environment. Now you can produce in high definition on a Macintosh with Final Cut for a few thousand dollars. HD cameras used to be out of the reach of most people and now many photographers are capturing high definition video.

Distribution is the other half of the revolution. Now everyone has access to the printing press. We are all publishers now. I think that’s quite exciting in that we have access to a greater diversity of voices. New forms of sorting and elevating content are emerging through our social networks that are filtering the quality projects for us. For me, Facebook and Twitter are the new front page.

Because of these two advances – the tools and the distribution – I think this is the most exciting time we’ve ever witnessed in our profession.

Of course, we need to work hard to learn the new skills that will allow us to best take advantage of these new tools and distribution opportunities. The most important step in this process is that we need to advance our storytelling abilities. That means gaining a better understanding of audio, video and producing compelling narratives.

To help others in this process we’ve created the MediaStorm Multimedia Workshops that are targeted at those ready to take the next step in storytelling. Our focus is not on the technical elements, though there’s lots of technical tips and tricks to share, but rather on the methodology of how we produce the type of stories that we publish and how approaching the reporting process with an eye towards a cinematic narrative can create an arc of distribution opportunities.

At our last workshop Gillian Laub found a character only a few days before the workshop began. It’s a classic don’t judge a book by the cover story that incorporates both still and video images. The video coming out of the Canon Mark II is simply game changing from a fidelity perspective. But, that fidelity is a gimmick without a story.

Take Care - MediaStorm
Take Care by Henrik Björnsson, Elena Ghanotakis, Gillian Laub, and Laura Varma
Virginia Gandee’s brilliant red hair and dozen tattoos belie the reality of this 22-year-old’s life. Inside her family’s Staten Island trailer her caregiving goes far beyond the love she has for her daughter. See the project at mediastorm.org/workshops_0012.htm

AT: How important is having an online presence for photographers today as a resource to share their work.

Brian: Mandatory.

I’m not suggesting that other formats aren’t important, they all have a role in the franchise, but I think it would be hard to argue against having a significant focus on how your work is presented online.

AT: What parameters would you like to transcend?

Brian: I don’t feel limited, quite the opposite. The opportunities right now are endless and the team at MediaStorm is learning and growing each day.

I feel incredibly lucky to be doing exactly the type of work that I want to be doing in a craft that I love. I get to work with people that are very passionate and committed to their efforts on a daily basis and I’ve never been more excited about the future possibilities.

Originally published on the New York Photo Festival blog

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