Photos By Mary Knox Merrill

On Friday, my Online Journalism class with Professor Dan Kennedy had the opportunity to hear from guest speaker Mary Knox Merrill, who is currently a staff photographer at Northeastern University.

Mary Knox Merrill

Merrill shared with us her experiences working as a photographer for the Christian Science Monitor after attending graduate school at Boston University, and showed us photography projects from her travels to Congo and India. She also demonstrated a more local piece from Gloucester, Mass., about Cyclocross racing.

Merrill’s photography projects consisted of still photography, video, narration and interviews with subjects. I really enjoyed the combination of these elements to form and tell a story. I think that they are more visually enhancing than a typical news story or even a television news broadcast, and with the narration and interviews, they can make a bigger impact on the viewer.

In Congo, Merrill worked on a story about women’s advocacy group attempting to prevent rape by soldiers and militiamen. Though the pictures themselves were visually engaging, the part that spoke to me the most was the actual interview with the militiaman who admitted to raping women in the past. I thought that interview was the strongest part of the piece, because it gave him a chance to explain his side of the story.

In a typical news story, perhaps his quotes would be included, but the fact that this story includes an actual interview, where you can hear his words and see his face, makes for a stronger story and emphasizes the realness of this problem.

The combination of all of these elements may not actually tell a better story, but I think the audience gets a better representation of what is going on because they can both see and hear information. Whereas a newspaper story could be put down after the first few graphs, these photography stories are comprehensive, short, and visually engaging, keeping the viewer’s attention for the entirety of the piece.

Merrill left the class with a bit of advice that I think was especially important and hope to use in the future. She mentioned that today, journalists are expected to do everything–not just report. They need to learn video and photography as well, which is why I’m glad to be learning these skills.


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