There is no one, right way to convey a sense of place or to tell stories of lived experience. Dennie Eagleson tells a story visually through photography (and documentary photography has perhaps been the gold standard to convey place and experience), and Don Wallis has published books and pamphlet series to convey the lived experience of others. I know the place of Yellow Springs when I read about the experience of local teens living within it.
But people and place are multi-sensory experiences, and so can be their documentation. Consider the rise of social media, tagging and the semantic web, and the burgeoning field of digital humanities, and a new world opens with limitless possibility.
Our class, Community Journalism: Photography and Oral History, intends to blend these modalities by using simple slideshow programs (Keynote/Powerpoint), a tool (easily accessible to students without equipped studios) that allows for a creative multimedia generation. After barely getting my feet wet in this idea, I will never see the slideshow in the same way again.
In order to show slideshows or Quicktime movies (Keynote exports as Quicktime with manual advance or timed slides), I need to get my video player up and running (the Flv Player 14 by Andrei Potorac) in order to showcase movies/slideshows visually (instead of with a text link), and I might add an audioplayer to give a better sensory experience to still images. There is much work to be done here, and changes to the site will be mandated by the content generated. I expect changes and modifications to happen often until the project is well on it’s way.
This website is powered by the blogging/content management system WordPress, and uses the f8 theme by Thad Allender. While I have found the theme needs a lot of work to get up and running (while the theme options are fantastic, expect to play with code), I think it is the most visually appealing minimalistic theme I have seen. While it focuses on large scale images, it also allows for crisp, integrated blogging and a slick navigation that hides distractions. In terms of a documentary theme,
i think it will fill the bill perfectly, in it’s final form.
In terms of documenting the lived experience of (in? by and about?) a place, I think it is really important to visually represent the places you might otherwise take for granted, the places that are the unassuming backdrop of daily life. Eventually, these images will be organized into categories and shown in the galleries on the home page, much like the Community Pottery Studio gallery (although the images need to be re-saved for the web and reloaded to cure the time lag). I hope to explore the sidewalks, the parks, the bicycles, the laundrymat, and the interiors of places we frequent. With any luck, I hope to develop an eye that assumes very little.
My current thinking about the content generated by family interviews (whatever it may be- stills with sound or movies) will place it in the “People” section, a drop down menu found in the top right corner of the homepage. I think this will be a little more intimate for the collection of stories, and will allow the front page to host photography that sets the scene. (which will be free to use with attribution).
As time goes on, I will create a “Resources” page with links to all of these tools. If anyone would be interested in learning to use WordPress as a blog or as an entire content management system (cms), please comment. With enough interest, we could hold a class downtown that covers enough basics to get you up and running at your own domain.