Is a digital story just a new and improved photo essay?
Yes and No!
While creating my digital personal narrative, I was struck by how similar it was to creating a photo essay. I’m a person who prefers to communicate in text rather than images. Give me a topic and I’ll write about it. Ask me to take photographs that represent a topic or help an audience define the topic – and the process just became much more difficult.
So I asked myself, “Are digital stories just new fangled photo essays?” There are plenty of similarities, but to me, there is one large difference beyond media platforms.
Yes: A digital story can be thought of as a photo essay. It’s using images and text to tell a story. For years newspaper and magazine publishers have known that the combination of images and text appeals to a boarder audience. This powerful combination could tell the story better than words alone. Photo essays use literal or direct images to tell the story. The same is true in digital stories. Direct images “are useful in conveying the necessary details of your story or helping to set the scene for your audience,” as stated in Lambert / Hesseler’s The Seven Steps Of Digital Storytelling (pg. 10).
Yes: Digital stories and photo essays use the same steps in the writing process. The first step is to brainstorm or find the idea for the story. The next step is to ask yourself what do you want to accomplish with the story? What do you want the audience to do or feel? Then you create the story by taking, finding, or creating images and writing the supportive text, The first draft is never the final draft, so you revise, revise, and then edit again. Finally, you are ready for publication. Whether it’s a photo essay or a digital story, you then, sit back and wait for the audience response.
No!: Photo-essays do not include your voice. It’s true the best writers believe that they can show the audience the voice of the character just by using the right words and images. If it’s written well enough, if the picture is sharp and detailed enough, they hope that the audience will hear the voice of the character exactly as the author does in their head while writing. That’s the difference. They have to hope! Hope that they audience will hear the voice. Contrastingly, digital stories can use sound!
What can digitally storytelling do?
Lambert / Hessler, Seven Steps To Digital Storytelling
The Cranberries (1992). Dreams [Recorded by The Crandberries]. On Stars: The Best of 1992 – 2002. London, United Kingdom: Island.