2012 Eyes of History: New Media Contest: Photography & Audio: Natural Sound

First Place

Afghan Outpost

Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division has seen some of the fiercest combat of the war in the past six months while fighting for control of the central bazaar in Charkh, Afghanistan. With about 140 soldiers, it has racked up 50 Purple Hearts.

David Gilkey, Photographer (entrant)
Quil Lawrence, Audio
Becky Lettenberger, Producer
Keith Jenkins, Senior Producer

Yurman: I like this piece. I thought the images captured the right mood. It felt, as opposed to some of the other NPR pieces, that those images were meant for the audio.

Wise: They gave us some mental space. Time to reflect. This does what audio slideshows are supposed to do.

Baylen: The sound is so clean, ambient really lends to mood and scene, and we had breathing room to absorb. There was time to linger on the photos, which were beautiful.

It felt like the images were meant for the audio. The piece gave the viewer some space and time to reflect on what is happening. The sound is clean and the ambient really lends itself to mood and scene. There was time to linger on the photos, which were beautiful. This does what audio audio slideshows are supposed to do.

Second Place

Five Years Without Justin

Gold Star Mother Paula Davis marks the fifth anniversary of the death of her son, Justin Davis, who died fighting for the U.S. Army in Afghanistan with a remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery.

Larry Downing
Jason Reed

Wise: Wish we could have seen portrait of her sitting on the stairs with the blanket longer. It was amazing photograph. It didn’t gel. Would have started with the home video of him instead. Don’t bury the lead. The editing is sort of killing some of the photography, the great work, and it’s sad to see that. A lot of the strength came from the archival footage; it was illuminating about the character. I almost want to just lob off the first have of this piece, and then we would have a winner. And then re-edit it. The story is there, it’s just not told very well. It’s clunky but the shape is there. It tried to take the mother grieving cliche approach but it didn’t work that way.

Yurman: It just didn’t work for me. There was a story there and it was sincere, but not very well told. Felt like they were trying to tell too much. Could have cut this piece in half and it would have been better. If we’re judging the construction of a story, I think it sort of failed. Every time they start to get to the heart of the story, they give us a fact that doesn’t fit, or just trying to throw in a good photo. I wanted to like it.

Baylen: I try to avoid starting pieces with, “my name is.” Saw other moments I would have started with instead. I appreciate they got the archival footage to use to build character, but they didn’t know how to build the arc. It didn’t flow. They had really nice videos: the photography is nice. This felt like it had issues, but it did have a story to it. Feels like they didn’t know how to organize it. Jumps around too much. I would have made different choices as an editor, but there was emotion.

There is a story here with emotion and the photography is nice. But it feels like they didn’t know how to organize the story, which impacted the flow. It jumps around too much. However, as clunky as the editing was, a story was there, which is why a second place was given. The use of archival footage is helpful.

Third Place

Paris Underground

Paris, City of Light, really is a tale of two cities. One of them is above ground, with its beloved Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. That’s the city the world sees. And then there’s the city very few us will ever see — an underground Paris, the ‘souterrain.’

Claire O’Neill, Producer
Stephen Alvarez, Photographer/National Geographic
Jacki Lyden, Audio
Keith Jenkins, Supervising Producer

Baylen: Beautiful but felt like i was trying to catch up with photography. It felt like it was the beginning of an experience. I barely had time to see the photography before it moved to the next image. Didn’t feel like a complete experience. I’m trying to read, and I don’t look up in time to see the photos. Ambient sound is nice. I’d be happier to watch the picture longer and absorb. I don’t need to see him picture by picture going down. The idea is fun and it makes me want to know more. Didn’t need to use all that technique because it’s a pretty simple story. You see the skulls, and the bones, and I didn’t get to really experience that because I was just trying to keep up. It felt like whoever edited the piece got that they shouldn’t muddy it up with too many interviews, which is awesome, but as a viewer, I didn’t go with them as well.

Wise: Needed better transitions. This piece felt like a trailer. I remember seeing the magazine story and it felt like a very photo story. I think there are some things that could have really made it pop. It was a series of vignettes and it didn’t feel like that. Instead felt jumbled. Really great photography and I think the piece could have honored that a little more. There was no narrative thread to this story. Felt like sketch board. It was too jumpy. No thread to follow. Little story arcs can tell bigger story arcs, and this doesn’t have that. It’s a great trailer. I think you get a glimpse of cultural transformation, but they don’t really let you get into it. The piece is supposed to be immersive, and it never allowed me to do that. I feel a little offended by how the photography was treated.

Yurman: This was imperfect to me. The narrative wasn’t handled very well. This piece didn’t strive for as much, so it didn’t fall that far. This could have been much better.

This piece had beautiful photography and it felt like an experience. But it didn’t feel like a complete experience. It felt like a trailer instead of a full story. There was barely time to see the photography before we had to move on to the next image. It was jumpy and there was no thread to follow. Taking the approach of less is more, and utilizing ambient sound to guide a story instead of relying too much on interviews is good, and we liked that they tried that.

Wise: In the case of the other two pieces, they are both flawed. The storytelling is flawed in both stories. I can’t stack these two pieces in hierarchy. Editing is the frontier in which a lot of people need to improve and it’s kind of killing the story.

Baylen: Torn because I appreciate the content in Justin’s piece. Both have good potential. They’re such different pieces. One is an experience and the other is a story. The gravity of Justin’s story, for me, I am drawn to it because of it’s content. It’s serious, it’s a mother who has lost a son, and they do give us more to chew on than, “oh, I’m so sad, I lost my son.” I feel like there is depth to this piece. But the other piece is not that type of piece. I think we’re all agreeing in terms of third place: taking the approach of less is more, and the approach of using more ambient and trying a different way of storytelling is good.

Yurman: Both of the other pieces fall far short from the winner. Both stories are flawed in the telling.