© Ed Kashi
Ed Kashi is a photojournalist who uses photography, filmmaking, and social media to explore social and geopolitical issues. As an educator and mentor, he lectures frequently on visual storytelling, human rights, and the world of media. He has published eight books, and his award-winning work is exhibited worldwide.
This year Ed will be joining us in Santa Fe to teach his multimedia class The Art of Visual Storytelling March 10 - 15, 2019.
Over the holidays we talked with Ed Kashi to learn more about his history as well as his approaches to photojournalism, video, and multimedia:
SFPW: As someone who has made their name as a photojournalist, when did start getting interested into incorporating multimedia and video into your storytelling?
Ed Kashi: I first started playing with video in 2000, in the midst of my 7+ year project on Aging in America. I was still fully in the analog age, photographing with Leicas and film, but I was yearning for more engagement and most importantly I wanted to bring the voices of my subjects to life. Little did I know what I was starting for myself. My initial vision was to have LCD screens with interviews of my subjects alongside the silver gelatin prints. That initial idea quickly morphed into making a full 60-minute feature documentary that appeared on PBS. I then got into multimedia work, between 2002-2010, producing hybrid pieces using stills and motion. Now I work in full video mode rarely incorporate my stills in my documentary work. They are kept separate. It’s been an interesting evolution over the past 18 years
SFPW: On your website, you state your photographic worldview as “I take on issues that stir my passions about the state of humanity and our world, and I deeply believe in the power of still images to change people’s minds ... The access people give to their lives is precious as well as imperative for this important work to get done. Their openness brings with it a tremendous sense of responsibility to tell the truth but to also honor their stories.” Have you noticed a difference in the way you approach connecting with people when shooting video as opposed to photographing?
Ed Kashi: Shooting video is much more intrusive and requires a lot more interaction, acceptance, and cooperation from your subjects. While I rarely direct subjects in documentary situations, there is still more need to explain what you’ll be doing, what you need from them, what happens next, and for audio, physical intervention where you are literally putting a mic on their bodies. This runs anathema to shooting stills! I also will do much more intimate and in-depth interviews, which is very different from how I would interview or talk with people when I’m only photographing them. This allows me to bring their voices alive, let them tell their stories and also gives me new ideas on what to film them doing.
SFPW: Having worked in multimedia and photography, what guides your decision making on whether a story is best told through sound and motion or in still photographs? Do you go into a project knowing which medium you would like to use, or does it develop naturally?
Ed Kashi: At this point in my personal evolution, I will decide before I begin a project if it’s a stills, video or hybrid approach. As I said, even with a hybrid approach, the reason is to distill both raw forms and keep them separate, but video is always ascendant in terms of process, as it requires a lot more gear, concentration and attention to the narrative and in some ways requires more control of the situations or at the very least better prepared for what might happen. When I’m doing both, I always predicate which medium is my main focus, so I avoid confusion at the moment on what to reach for and how to see the world.