"When you're young, you should be listeners.
When you get older, then you can talk."
I heard this quote recently in a multimedia piece, and as much as I was drawn to this character, I couldn't disagree with him more. Yes-- we all need to work on being better listeners. But if we can't stop to hear what the young have to say, we're missing out.
No one represents that idea better to me than Tucker Walsh. Those of you who follow The Digital Naturalist on Facebook or have read comments on recent posts might have already taken note of the name. I discovered him almost by accident, Googling him out of curiosity soon after he began following TDN's page. To say that his work captured my attention is an understatement. After watching just a few vignettes, it was clear that Tucker has a strong sense of style and storytelling. His videos are subtle, quirky, raw, and intimate; a quiet celebration of humanity. Not bad for a 20-year-old.
Recently, Tucker has taken on a much bigger role as TDN's newest contributor, offering story ideas, championing the blog in his photojournalism circles, stirring up fresh discussions over social media, and pointing me daily to the latest and greatest examples of storytelling online. The real challenge has been keeping up with all the brilliant work he's bringing into the fold-- but it's a challenge I'm happy to take on.
Below is his story. Take a few minutes to get to know him, then join me in extending a warm welcome to this vibrant and talented new addition to our team!
I started taking photos when I was 13 years old, on a community service trip to the Massai Mara. I quickly realized that images were the greatest way to humanize the mysterious tribal warriors in Kenya to my untraveled loved ones back home. This realization set me on a life-long journey to travel the world, using my camera as a tool to shed light on both my world and others'.
Just recently, I discovered a new medium that has redirected my passion: DSLR filmmaking. Some people are surprised that I'm moving away from still photography, but for me, it's a natural progression. I've always appreciated the quality and depth of storytelling that films provide, and thanks to new technologies, my still vision can translate fully into cinematic, moving images. But what I really appreciate about film, even more than the aesthetics of cinema itself, is the ability for subjects to tell their own story in their own voice.
I grew up in Mystic, Connecticut, but I'm currently studying photojournalism at the Corcoran College of Art + Design and completing a video internship at The Washington Post in Washington, D.C. I also studied documentary photography last semester at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies, in Portland, Maine. This summer, I'm fortunate to be interning with the multimedia department at NPR. My goal is to merge photography, video, storytelling, and social media into this exciting new medium of visual storytelling for an online audience.
Why you became a photojournalist:
1. I get to do something I'm obsessed with while also positively contributing to the world.
2. There's an incredible amount of room for creativity, entrepreneurship, collaboration, and exploration.
3. There's a big, giant world out there, and my job is to find awesome stories to tell. There's nothing else I would ever want to do!
The most important thing you've learned as an intern at the WP:
The Washington Post internship has been an absolutely invaluable experience! I'm there three to four days a week, and each day I'm sent out to shoot, edit, and produce a video story, always on deadline. I had produced only two videos before my internship started, so just shooting/editing regularly has been priceless. Something I've really learned about is the art of storytelling. One of my WP mentors, Evelio Contreras, gave me the example of a person walking across the street: There's a story that can be told visually and in an interesting way; it's just a matter of finding the risks, payoffs, challenges, and motivations behind that person's actions. These are ideas that, sadly, were often overlooked in my photography classes, but have since transformed the way I think about video.
What excites you most about your upcoming internship with NPR?
I hope to continue learning the art of storytelling. And I'm thrilled to be doing so from the masters! Who tells stories better than NPR? I also appreciate how NPR always seems to cover news and stories a little differently than everyone else. Their perspectives are fresh, unique, different-- and I hope to pick up the skills to achieve the same in my own work.
All-time favorite documentary:
I'm not sure it qualifies as a documentary, but the film Baraka, without a doubt, is the most inspiring and transformational work of art I've ever encountered. In a nutshell, it taught me to see the world differently. It completely transformed the way I see beauty, and in doing so, helped define my vision as a photographer.
Latest multimedia obsession:
I've been following the Hussin brother's journey across America on their bicycles. Their website embodies the future of visual storytelling. First off, they used social media and Kickstarter to gain support and raise money. Using these tools, you can breathe new life into personal projects, and the Hussins are a great model of that. One brother is a writer/filmmaker and the other is a photographer/filmmaker, so their website (which is being updated throughout their journey) includes video, photos, and writing-- a true "multimedia" project. Most importantly, the stories they are telling are unique, heartfelt, and brilliantly produced. They dispel the myth that online video must be under four minutes long. I also admire their passion to document these stories; by living with their subjects, they're delivering something authentic and unique… something very few people ever have the opportunity to experience themselves.
A bad habit you'd really like to see producers/filmmakers/photographers break:
One pet-peeve I have in my own videos is unnecessary and unintentional camera shake due to laziness. As someone with a still photography background, one of the biggest challenge moving to video has been using a tripod. It's as if I'm shackled, and I find myself missing moments I would have been able to capture in a still image. But I just bought a monopod, so hopefully that will be a working compromise for the time being.
Your favorite thing about storytelling:
Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools on Earth. It's been the most basic form of entertainment and education for thousands and thousands of years. Everything from journalism to religion to Hollywood has, at its core, a story. It's as universal as music or laughing. Everyone can relate, regardless of the content. And like life itself, a story is less about where you end up, rather the journey that takes you there. Personally, my goal is to tells stories that create greater humanity amongst us all.
Biggest fears as a budding journalist:
I think Ira Glass could best sum this up right now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BI23U7U2aUY
Greatest hopes for the nonprofit-communications industry over the next decade:
I have no doubt that nonprofits will continue to understand the importance of web-based video storytelling. I'm truly excited to see where organizations go with it, and I hope to start tapping into that market ASAP!
Your dream assignment?
To do a multimedia story on a group of Tibetan refugees who make the trek from mainland Tibet to northern India or Nepal. They face brutal conditions, police brutality, rape, torture, and, oftentimes, death. Yet all of it takes place in one of the most beautiful countries on Earth, who's culture and people are being slowly diluted as Han Chinese migrants continue to stream in. It would be an incredibly difficult and dangerous journey to document, but one worth telling.
I'm currently producing a multimedia story that I shot in Lusaka, Zambia, for the nonprofit Chikumbuso. The story juxtaposes two widows, one who is part of the nonprofit and another who is not but wishes to be. I hope to have the video completed this summer.
Check out more of Tucker's work here: