When it comes to judging a body of work carrying the description interactive it is important to understand what we mean by the term interactive. It is a word often used but rarely universally understood.
Is it enough to embed moving image and photo galleries or photos that can be enlarged into running text? Is it enough to introduce a series of chapters into a long form article also interspersed with moving and still images? Is this interactive? As a jury we decided that it was not. Our interpretation of what constitutes an interactive documentary was both deeper and more involved than either of these base interpretations. We were looking for more. More engagement, more depth of content, more options to relate, more awareness of multiple platform engagement and perhaps most importantly we were looking for projects that pointed to the future of online storytelling.
There can be no doubt that all three of the projects we chose to award in the World Press Photo Multimedia Awards 2014 display all of these characteristics (you can find out more about all of them by clicking on the links at the end of this post). They are truly interactive and most importantly from a photographers or filmmakers perspective I believe that they point to the future for both editorial and educational content delivery.
The world of interactive documentary creation seems to me to have a perfect parallel with the world of Formula 1 motor racing. Both are expensive research and development laboratories for what can be achieved in their respective areas. Boundaries are pushed, technology developed and risks taken. As a result of this activity there is a water-down effect from these developments into the mainstreams of car design and editorial content delivery. The innovative of today becomes the commonplace of tomorrow.
The issue with both of course is that few can afford to engage with either activity in any form other than as a spectator.
Despite this it seems essential to me that we are aware of the developments that are being made in this area. All three of the winning projects demonstrate the convergence of photography, the moving image and graphics, the three key elements of visual communication. As such I believe that they answer a number of questions about the future for the creative industries. Yes collaboration is important, yes the moving image is important to photographers and yes the still image still has an important place in the online environment. The only question they don’t answer is how editorial content will be monetized in the future. None of these projects carry obvious advertising other than that of the producer of the work in the case of The Guardian and The New York Times.
What these projects do show are possible environments outside the established platforms we already consider as suitable homes for the work we create and stories we wish and need to tell. As such the future has to include the interactive; new platforms will be essential to the development of all of our professional practices however how we choose to interact and what we choose to interact with still needs to be fully resolved. In the meantime I’m not going to ignore what is happening at the cutting edge of visual storytelling.
© Grant Scott 2014