Words and images both have considerable potential for storytelling. Images have the capacity to depict what happened and to communicate on a emotional level. Words filter out the extraneous details, allowing for precision in the sweep of what we are communicating. Words can explain the why as well as the how. When words and pictures come together, a third element becomes important — the visual orchestration that brings the two together. We see the images and read the text for more information. We read the text and look to the images to illuminate the points or add detail. How they are brought together can help the story or hinder it. Visual interest like good prose, makes information easier to digest and imparts meaning greater than the sum of the parts.
Above are the opening spread of a magazine article on an initiative in Laos to improve the nutritional lives of villages by teaching them to find protein-rich food in their natural environment. Using a large photograph of La, a student, fishing in a stream, diagonally framed by hands, one holding a cricket and the other plants, added a visual spin to the spread. The bottom of the cluster anchored by a smaller picture in a classroom. Altering the visual scale of images allows the eye to navigate the page.
Voices from Syria
The genesis of the story began as a series of compelling interviews with Syrians who had chosen to remain in Syria. Their accounts delivered a viseral impression of what it was like to live with the daily threat of violence. The photographs, however, were essentially straightforward portraits that could have accompanied any article. Each interview was trimmed to similar length. It felt important to use the photographs because, they depicted the interviewees. Developing some form of visual contrast felt important.
On the the opening pages, began with Reverend Ibrahim Nsier account of living in Aleppo. The most visually arresting of the photographs, he stands in front of the bombed out building where his church formerly met for worship. Included also, was a map of Syria showing where each the stories come from.
Varying the size of the photographs to increase visual contrast while taking account of the copy and using pull quotes extracted from the interviews formed a point / counterpoint to add visual energy and contrast and, hopefully, drew readers in.