A Droplet of Irony: When Photos Replace Words to Tell a Powerful Story

We published the first guest post on this forum a couple of weeks ago from Michael Margolis. No. 2 comes from one of the Agency’s account folks, Julia Sinykin, who looks at stories in the context of water. And we’ll continue to strive to periodically shake up the status quo.

water scarcity storytelling

The word “irony” comes to mind when considering the Great Flood of Rhode Island compared to National Geographic’s recent special report on Freshwater.

I’m surrounded by local news – and my family’s tales – of flooded basements, water pumps and memorabilia, saved school papers from my youth, old photos and toys all ruined by deluges of water.

 

At the same time, I’m reading about the scarcity of water through various angles and perspectives on the topic from National Geographic’s recent Freshwater report as well as numerous other media outlets that are covering water scarcity issues.

 

It seems to me that water has quite an odd way of being too much of a good thing or simply not enough.

 

As PR professionals, we understand the power of words to affect a reader.  We craft our clients’ stories, using just the right words to boost their reputation and credibility, adapting our messages to suit their situation. 

 

However – and I almost bite my tongue saying this since words have always been my career path of choice — water is one topic that seems to be best understood and captured visually. 

 

And in this new media world, photo essays and slide shows or interactive images lead the way when it comes to changing perceptions and informing people about issues.

 

national geographic waterNational Geographic, a visual communications leader throughout my lifetime, certainly shows how to capture a topic via photos in its photo essays, two of which include Fresh Water or World Water Day Pictures: Epic Disappearing Acts, as well as its interactive map Lifeline in the Holy Land. 

 

The main takeaway from these pictures is that water – at its core – is life.  Without a doubt, it is an element that we need to save, especially as the world population keeps growing.

 

It as if the earth – via National Geographic photographers – has presented its own photo album to the world, saying, “‘Look here’…‘Be forewarned’…‘I’m almost empty.’”

 

The other element about impactful photos is that viewers can immediately identify with them and – if they are anything like me – immediately insert themselves in the picture. 

 

I’ll remember those photos long after reading the content of an entire article. Need I even say it? A picture is worth a thousand words. 

 

The best storytellers understand how to use photos to tell the story. This may mean the next-generation of PR professionals must also be photographers – or at least understand visual storytelling to be effective within this dynamic media landscape.

 

Reconsidering National Geographic’s photo essays, I juxtapose those images with those from my family – who coincidentally have happened to document all of life’s events through photos.

 

rhode island flooding photoI see water up to the knee, water pumps that are too slow to keep up with the water flooding inside their basements, family members begging any company that actually picks up the phone to get a sump pump installed.  A seemingly never ending mess of soggy items to sort through or throw out.

 

Water scarcity versus water abundance…written word versus photograph.  All ironies aside, water or its “ghost”/the lack thereof, is certainly getting its fifteen minutes of fame.  I know those photos are helping significantly.

 

Someone hand me a camera.  And depending on how adventurous I feel – a tall glass of water with ice or a sump pump. 

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2 comments

2 Comments so far

  1. Carole Schonberg April 19th, 2010 2:38 pm

    Very interesting and provocative article by Julia Sinykin..When do we have too much and when not enough water…and in its natural state, can be so beautiful..

  2. Alan Schonberg April 19th, 2010 4:24 pm

    Julia was able to take a mundane subject like water and weave a philosophical yet topical story around it.Very creative thinking and writing.

    Alan Schonberg

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