Storytelling Amidst Chaos


VANCOUVER, BC – JUNE 15: Riot police walk in the street as a couple kiss on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver broke out in riots after their hockey team the Vancouver Canucks lost in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals. (Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Storytelling is as old as language. The basics rules have not changed. You need a story line: surprise, character, and quest. Is there tension? Release? What elements have you chosen and why? Many of us are “title centric” when telling a story… we cannot get past our siloed duties.  Most of us act like a photographer or journalist capturing the chaos of an event or story; anyone can point and capture chaos because its all around.

True story lies in details and the element of surprise.  When you gut is telling you to get capture the chaos, the dog and pony show, get a few shots but pull back and look for surprises.  All GOOD stories have surprises.  Anticipate them, allow them to happen.  If your story is predictable you don’t have much of a story. Allow your viewers to experience the same surprise, alarm, joy you experiences when you discovered the story.

For Rich Lam who was covering the Vancouver Canucks lost in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, he described the situation as pretty tense when capturing images of looters and rioters. But when his instincts for something deeper kicked in he began looking for the surprise. When he found the couple in the street kissing, although he first thought they were hurt from his first photo.

Stepping back reveals so much; It focuses, sharpens, and reveals humanity in a whole new light.  The next time you find yourself capturing an advent, get the shots that will get away first but then step back and find the true story.  You are the ones in your organization or church who “See the Opera.”  Only you see hopes rise, or tears fall.  The guys that pay the bills don’t ask the questions, take a picture, shoot a frame of video, or write a line.  Your work requires your best effort: Your Eyes, Your Ears, Your, Heart, Your Mind.  Be a storyteller.

Matt Knisely

Matt Knisely is an Emmy Award–winning visual storyteller, creative director, and author who loves telling stories of the extraordinary. Make sure you check out his book Framing Faith, it helps connect the seemingly unconnected, see the beauty right in front of us, and revealing how to be present in the moment.

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