21st Century Storytelling

Displaced Somali women dig in the sand of a dry riverbed in search of drinking water in southern Ethiopia. This image is part of Abramson's personal multimedia project on water-based conflicts titled, "When the Water Ends".

From resource conflicts in Africa to the ruin and misery of post-earthquake Haiti, Evan Abramson has brought a new sensibility to documenting the world’s fragile places. He has done so by blending still photography and video into compelling multimedia presentations. Armed with the Canon 5D Mark II and an arsenal of microphones and audio equipment, Abramson says that adding video to a shoot makes for a more complete story. “One big frustration [I had] as a still photographer was not having a way to allow people to tell their stories with their own voices. You can take a good photograph and show their emotions and perhaps something of their soul in an image, but working in video allows the storytelling to be more profound. It engages the viewer in a different way.” It engages the photographer, too. “When you’re shooting stills, there’s a tendency to want to get the picture and capture the story through the picture. But when you stop and listen to what someone’s telling you and get their story too, that might lead you to even better images, ones you might have missed,” Abramson observed. Given the convergence of high-definition video and high-resolution photo capture in one device, it might be tempting to bounce frenetically back-and-forth between mediums and Abramson admits that one of the great challenges in working in multimedia is deciding when to do what. “I find it more productive, and more satisfying, to spend a large chunk of time doing one or the other,” Abramson said, before adding an important caveat: “I trust my intuition. Always.” Abramson’s work includes several multimedia projects for Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs). A large part of getting this work is being where the NGOs are, and that often means travel to some of the world’s most dangerous locations. For a recent project in Kenya and Ethiopia, Abramson traveled on his own dime to document the growing conflict over increasingly scarce-water resources. The project was since picked up by the multi-media production studio MediaStorm and will premiere on the Yale Environment 360 Web site this fall. (Visit to view the piece.) When we spoke, Abramson was working on a project on the failures of the aid model in Haiti as well as a documentary about a Haitian orphanage’s dark past. He noted, “We exist, media-wise, in a never-before-seen age. The print world is not what it was—we’re seeing it change and the way we tell stories change with it. Video is enabling me to survive and thrive. And it’s allowing me to reach people in a way that photography alone simply can’t.”



© Karine Laval/Courtesy of the artist and Benrubi Gallery
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