Soul of Athens Series- Maisie Crow

Jonathan Adams sent me this:

A beautiful piece by Ohio U student Maisie Crow done as part of their Soul of Athens series.
She brings stills, video and audio together in such a simple and powerful way and tells a story that is probably all to common but you really never hear it told.

Yeah, the future is bright. So many great stories out there and young, ambitious, talented photographers ready to tackle them.

There Are 77 Comments On This Article.

  1. No doubt Maisie is one of the most talented multimedia producers working anywhere in the world today.

    When you watch work like this you wonder what planet Visa Pour La Image Director JF Leroy is living on when he expresses that there is no good multimedia out there?

    I bet you 100 dollars that if Lefroy put this work on, on the big screen in Perpignan with decent sound, that the audience response would blow the other still exhibitions out of the water … but he won’t of course because he’d prove that photojournalism is as much about audience and about people as it is the photographers ego.

    Congrats Maisie. You set a new standard.

  2. This is an astounding piece from conception, to execution, to edit. Everyday sorrows told in a delightfull, enduring, powefull way.

    Brilliant Maisie

  3. So beautiful! I’ve just finished my slideshow and discovered that multivision slideshows have certain advantages, that are very promising! This one is exceptionally good!
    b5

  4. Simply Touching. The best photographic experience i’ve experienced this year.

    Not taking anything away from the effort, but i can’t help to give just as much credit to the husband. He had the efficiency of a poet in his effort to articulate how he felt.

    Saying that i’m can’t help but wonder what kind of a capture crew it takes to create such a safe environment, so safe that the husband felt able to surrender such vulnerable thoughts, and do so in such a lyrical way.

    Applause.

  5. An amazing and touching piece of work. It must have taken an amazing photographer to coax so much out of this subject. To see what a great job this photographer did, watch the piece without the audio; you’ll be similarly impressed.

  6. That just shunts Alec Soth’s recent statement about photography just not being good for storytelling straight back to Minnesota.

    Pure and beautiful.

    • Dan Westergren

      @Chris Floyd, This doesn’t necessarily prove Alec wrong. I’m not so sure it was the photography that got you, but the Audio.

      • @Dan Westergren, Possibly you’re right but even without the audio it still tells the extremely powerful and meaningful story of what happens to someone when their mate departs this world. The audio certainly helps and enhances. Put it this way, if the photographs were of no merit then the whole thing would have collapsed in on itself. It would have had just as much of an impact if it had been published in a magazine with his words as a transcript. At the end of the day it’s just a brilliant telling of the life of one individual today and it made me think about the lucky things I have in my own life. What I also liked about it was that in our youth fixated society, the old are invisible and mute. But this piece smashed that rule to bits – for 5 minutes at least.

  7. I don’t know if it’s been getting much attention in the photo world, but I always enjoy this series over at the NY Times. It’s a series of those, ‘ordinary life,’ stories we discussed on the other post. It always kind of bothered me that in cities like New York, you can pass a thousand people and not know at least a little about who they are. How many missed opportunities at friendship are we missing by staying in our own little worlds?

    http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/nyregion/1-in-8-million/index.html?ref=nyregion

  8. We need more photojournalists working on something like this, and by this, I don’t mean a story about an old man who has lost his wife, so don’t run out to the retirement home hoping to cash in on some tears. By this I mean real stories in our back yards. Real stories and little moments of everyday life around our lives instead of trying to escape to some foreign region because it looks cool and everyone is doing it. And, just as importantly, these stories need to be published somewhere where the average person will see it. Hopefully Soul of Athens extends out to a wider audience than just photographers, producers and the students involved, because isn’t that the whole point of it all? What good does it do sitting on someone’s website or someone’s blog? That’s nothing more than photography for photographers. Creating something for nothing more than judgement and critique by an industry. Not journalism. And yes, newspapers aren’t doing so hot, but I’m tired of hearing that newspapers are sort of the bastard stepchild of a photojournalist’s dream. That someone walks on newspapers as they’re on their way galavanting the world to photograph the starving. That small newspapers are “below” some people. Stories like this are just as important to a community and their history as photographs from say Sudan, or Somalia, or countless other “photographer hot spots” around the world. Why is community journalism thought of to be at a lesser level? Why is community journalism only recognized if it’s at some amazing level when mediocre images coming out of the same place with the same subjects are helping the same photographers get the same recognition? Why has photojournalism taken an aristocratic direction?

    This piece was rad. I hate to use this as a place to post cynicism, but after watching this piece and reading the responses, I had to ask some questions relating to the broader topic of community journalism.

    • @J, Spot on J except that I disagree with you when you write that ‘stories like this are just as important to a community and their history as photographs from say Sudan, or Somalia, or countless other “photographer hot spots” around the world.’

      Actually they are more important. Just as in Sudan their own stories are more important to them than ours.

  9. I’m not as involved in PJ as many here. The piece is moving. The light hand in putting it together is quite powerful. Mr Rose’s perception about “harvest time” may be part of his journey to resolve, and remind me to ‘be the moment’.

    The black and white is strong as an artistic statement. But I’ve wondered for years if it is not an indulgent artistic (legacy) treatment when used in journalism today.

    • @Bob, I don’t think b/w is indulgent, given a particular subject matter. It clears away distraction and zeroes in on the subject. I think for this in particular, a grown man crying in b/w has much more impact than in color. Again, it strips away everything and leaves the raw emotion. Or that’s how I see it…

      • @Brett Deering, Thanks for your reply Brett. It’s a subjective question today. In the past, representation was limited to BW by technology and economics. But BW has always been an abstraction. Most people do not experience life in BW.

        BW today also communicates with a meta reference of the past history of PJ (BW). What if the photographer had used monotone which was less neutral in tone. Blues, or oranges, instead of grey tones? How would this add or subtract from the communication?

        Is the role of journalism to play up the “impact” of a story, or provide a true representation of reality? Aside from the BW, the piece is very neutral in the way it has portrayed the subject/story. I feel that light handed quality adds to the honest of the piece.

        • @Bob, Spot on … there’s this weird mythology amongst some photogs that black and white is more real.

          They’ve heard it somewhere and just accepted it, but there’s no research to back it up.

          More often than not black and white photography becomes a distortion of reality. It has been used to terrible effect in Africa, the most colorful of continents.

          We can’t say this has more ‘impact’ in black and white unless we’ve seen the same piece in color. That said I agree with Brett, nothing indulgent here.

          Its an interesting debate.

  10. I also posted this response on Vimeo, but I’d like to see the opinions of the folks on this site:

    Frankly, this “documentary” is an irresponsible, sensational work of journalism. This filmmaker has exploited an old man’s pain for a short film that does nothing more than make a reprehensible appeal to emotion. All this short film did was show the loneliness and grief of this man. What is the audience supposed to take away from the experience?

    The film does not give any insight into how a person may deal with such emotions. It does not offer up any form of solace in which a man may take when experiencing such pain. It merely shows that such pain exists for some people without probing for deeper meaning. This, I believe, misses the point of documentary-making/journalism altogether. Is it not to search for universal answers that may be gained from personal stories such as these? If so, this filmmaker has not done her job.

    What could have been a story on the impact one may have by reaching out to their neighbor, instead chooses to display a man at his lowest possible emotional state and leaves it at that. The film shows a broken soul incapable of even going to his own bedroom because it is too painful for him, and the viewer is left with nothing else. The filmmakers may have made some kind of effort to connect or reach out to this man, but they did not show it. This so-called documentary would have been better off it they had shown such action. It would have given this piece more context and purpose. Unfortunately, however, they didn’t. I can only assume now that they made no such effort, and merely exploited a pitiful, lonely man for an emotional story. Granted, the man willingly invited them into his home and told his story. But answer me this: Why wouldn’t a lonely person want to talk to someone?

    This work is obviously technically well-made. As others have said, the photography and editing are all on point. However, the ethics of the whole thing seem to have been overlooked. We all need to remember that this is a real person being filmed. As an aspiring filmmaker myself, I find it disturbing that such works are being held by some as the standard to which we should be working towards.

    This is not a personal attack on the filmmaker. I’m sure she had good intentions. However, I believe this effort was misguided and resulted in a piece that misses the purpose of such journalism.

    • @nathan-

      Personally I got quite a bit of insight watching this piece. I was provided with another humans’ experience. Reflection to resolve the deep existential emotional issues he (and humans in general) face.

      Specifically his comments about “harvest time”, are very much part of what all living creatures face during their brief moments here on the planet Earth. These thoughts have been fundamental to many cultures going back to the beginning of man. I am reminded to live in the present, be aware of our beautiful fragile reality.

      Just having this as an example of what it is to be human is
      cathartic as well. For the viewer, and most likely the subject and producers.

      Maybe you could give this another viewing and find some value.

      • @Bob-

        I see what you are saying, but it makes me wonder: is it enough to simply recognize the fact that we all experience such issues in life? I’d like to believe that the point is to find answers to life’s questions and ways to make it through such dark times.

        If we are meant to be, as you’ve said, “reminded to live in the present,” what is left for this man? It sounds as if you are saying we should enjoy the good times because once they’re gone, they’re gone for good. I’m not trying to put words in your mouth, but this view makes it sound like it’s too late for this gentleman.

        I would have liked to have seen more exploration of how we as humans can come to terms with the grief life hands us as those around us age and pass away and we ourselves enter the twilight of our years. As the film stands, I’m worried about the emotional state of this man. He himself states that it hasn’t gotten any easier since the passing of his wife.

        I’m sorry, but I refuse to believe that there is no possible solace for this man to find in his life before he himself passes on.

    • @nathan, From what I can read you’re not at all interested in journalism, the art of asking questions, or photojournalism, the art of observation, but rather religion, the art of selling answers, or maybe social work.

      The fact that you’re worried about the emotional state of this man shows the piece has worked on some level. It may indeed provoke you and others to act, to think more about the isolation that so many older people feel. That is powerful journalism.

      It seems to me your problem is that you don’t want to accept the world as it is? That’s good, but we don’t change things by denying the starting point.

      Why don’t you write the man a letter? Its the kind of response the most powerful journalism elicits.

      • @duckrabbit, I’m quite positive I made no reference to religion in my comment, and I can tell you right now that social work is the last thing I’m interested in. My only concern with your idea of journalism is the effect it has on the subject. Is this kind of work really worth breaking a man down to tears and then leaving him with no hope left? I didn’t find any real purpose in this piece, and I certainly don’t believe that whatever questions were asked by the piece justify what it apparently did to this man. I should think that you would not appreciate someone showing up at your grandfather’s doorstep, manipulating him when he is most vulnerable, and then leaving him to his tears and isolation.

        The fact that I had an emotional reaction to this piece proves nothing. A robot would be depressed by this film. All that means is that the filmmaker cared nothing for the story or the subject, but simply eliciting an emotional response from the viewer. If a someone were to film a soldier in Iraq getting shot, of course that would be shocking and sad, but is it journalism? By your logic that footage would “provoke me and others to act.”

        If this film is what you call journalism, I suppose I’m not interested in it. If this is the price a subject must pay to practice “the art of asking questions,” and then fail to attempt to find answers, then you can keep it. Because I would call that exploitation. That would be an appeal to emotion, which is way too easy.

        • Debra Weiss

          @nathan, I agree with you. I found this piece to be manipulative and at times overbearingly heavy handed. And while it did illicit an emotional response from me, it was not the one intended by the author. To me, it looked exactly as it is – a student project. Having said that, I can see potential and hopefully as Maisie matures, so will her work.

          I would recommend to all on this forum that they visit http://www.edkashi.com/. Go into the archives under Multimedia and watch his amazing work entitled “Aging in America”

          • @Debra Weiss, Surreal comments …

            If her work is of the level of a ‘student’ then my work and that of my colleagues must never have gotten out of pre-school, despite us working in one of the most highly thought of radio documentary units at the BBC.

            Recently we showed Maisie’s work and a number of award winning multimedia pieces during a training. There was a consensus on the best feature and it wasn’t any of the award winners (it was an even earlier feature of Maisie’s.

            It’s one thing to disparage something, to patronize someone but something else altogether to accuse them of manipulation.

            ‘I should think that you would not appreciate someone showing up at your grandfather’s doorstep, manipulating him when he is most vulnerable, and then leaving him to his tears and isolation.’

            If you two are going to be so bold as accuse Maisie of being manipulative, you should at least be specific whilst you libel her, otherwise you run the risk of insulting both Maisie and the old man by suggesting that he was somehow duped.

            I’ve never met Maisie, and I’ve never watched her work, but I would guess she just spent a lot of time allowing this man to breathe, and that the experience of making this piece was cathartic for him. Hardly manipulative.

            You can tell that she’s actually cut a lot of his emotion out. She has the skill to know just when to pull it back, but of course there will always be some who find that emotion hard to cope with.

            If she betrayed his trust, if she in any way manipulated this man, then I’m the fool but is she didn’t, if he was happy with the piece and if it reflected where he’s at, the fool is the one pointing the finger.

            • Debra Weiss

              @duckrabbit, The last time I checked, stating an opinion was not tantamount to libel. I was not referring to the subject being manipulated, but the viewer. Please don’t assume that those not enamored with this piece find emotion hard to cope with.

              • @Debra Weiss,

                Nathan wrote: ‘Is this kind of work really worth breaking a man down to tears and then leaving him with no hope left? I should think that you would not appreciate someone showing up at your grandfather’s doorstep, manipulating him when he is most vulnerable, and then leaving him to his tears and isolation.’

                Debra Weiss Responded: ‘@nathan, I agree with you.’

                Libel is ‘if someone thinks that what you wrote about them is either defamatory or damaging, the onus will be entirely on you to prove that your comments are true in court.’

                Writing that a journalist manipulated a subject to get a feature is defamatory and therefore libel.

                Perhaps Debra you might think for a moment about what you’re agreeing with before doing so publicly?

                But don’t worry, its an amateurs mistake.

                • Debra Weiss

                  @duckrabbit, There were many other things in Nathan’s post that I was agreeing with. My first sentence was not referring to any one thing in his comment.

                • Debra Weiss

                  @duckrabbit, Forgot to include this in my response – As to my alleged amateur status I suggest you include specifics whilst you libel me. And you forgot the apostrophe.

                    • @duckrabbit, Looks like I’ve missed a bit of action. As far as the “libel” issue is concerned (which I find laughable) I’d like to remind you that I included this in my original comment:
                      “The filmmakers may have made some kind of effort to connect or reach out to this man, but they did not show it. This so-called documentary would have been better off it they had shown such action.”

                      Perhaps I should have said it twice since apparently people don’t like to read things the first time. Obviously I qualified my statements about possible manipulation in my original post.

                      This is not a documentary. I’m sure you think it is, but believe me, it’s not. This is Photo Journalism that I happen to dislike. Stop being so condescending to anyone with a differing opinion and calling people amateurs who may very well have much more experience than you. This is a blog made for intelligent conversation not a playground.

                      I think I’ll leave before I lose my lunch money…

  11. “Yeah, the future is bright. So many great stories out there and young, ambitious, talented photographers ready to tackle them”

    I agree, at least with the latter. I just worry as to wether the industry can support them. Obviously the print market is shrinking which is compounding the difficulties of breaking into an already highly competitive market. But I personally see no incentive to into investing the time it takes to create great multimedia piece when publications are offering such poor rates for multimedia presentations despite the huge amount of extra work involved.

    Awesome piece though! Well done!

    • @James, ‘I personally see no incentive to into investing the time it takes to create great multimedia piece when publications are offering such poor rates for multimedia presentations despite the huge amount of extra work involved.’

      That would be the difference James. Maisie’s feature is an act of love.

      • @duckrabbit, Yes, and that is wonderful, don’t get me wrong. I just wonder if talents like Maisie will be able to continue to produce great pieces like this outside of the comfortable environment of their MA/BA. I hope so, I really do. Like yourself I really believe in multimedia storytelling. I just see an industry that is poorly equipped to deal with it right now.

        • @James, of course you’re completely right James.

          I guess the truth is that in life very few of us get paid to make exactly the kind of work we want to … I see Maisie as an artist and no doubt she will struggle with her art and find ways to make it pay, even if there is a fair amount of compromise involved.

  12. Very well done, loving someone in that way for so many years remind me of my grandparents, just a beautiful story.

  13. Michael T. Murphy

    This is my favotite piece, “Scarecrow.”

    The images are not “stunning”, but they are compelling. They are journalistic images from a 2 day piece by Gilles Peress of “Telex Iran” fame. A little long, but well done.

    Maybe evcn the old farts can learn?

    Magnum in Motion has **many** fine pieces.

    http://inmotion.magnumphotos.com/essay/scarecrow

  14. Wow! That was amazing. This is a wonderful incorporation of multimedia. It is powerful, moving and emotional. The multimedia helps to bring this work to a new level and makes it more compelling.

  15. In no way do I think Maisie exploited her subject, but she did exploit my emotions….she made me care deeply about someone I don’t know and also made me care about a all of those others that are suffering everyday and you don’t even know about it.

    That’s what great photojournalism is all about. Don’t be surprised that this little story will spur larger stories from the media….all because Maisie made us wake up and look around and made us care.

    I’m sorry but dismissing the story as a “student project” is arrogant and elitist….just wait and you will see how a “student” will be heralded my her peers and gets the recognition this piece deserves.

    Concerning the subject…..it sounded like he willingly told his story. The talent to gain trust and access with your subject is to often overlooked. It looks to me that Maisie has this talent, and its a skill greater than photography that will help separate her from most photographers working today.

    Concerning the photographs themselves, I love how she made me look at options beyond the typical “details” or subject images. Never would I have photographed a sheet as a detail but as the piece progresses the simple image of the flower print on the bed sheet means more than I ever realized. A photograph of the window with the sheer curtain somehow works….and a still of the sink faucet that turns into a video as the water drips…..quite images that provides impact throughout the piece….

    Maisie pushes me to see the story beyond what I usually see photographically and I thank her for that…..Maisie also opened up my eyes to the struggle the older generation battle with when they lose a life long partner…..and I thank her more for that, than anything else.

    Maisie has left a lasting impact and that is all I hope for in my photography career.

    Jonathan

    • @Jonathan Adams, Now, now Jonathan you’re being very unfair on Debra in calling her arrogant and elitist. Not everyone has a good eye for photography but I’m sure as she matures so will her eye for talent.

      • @duckrabbit,

        I understand where you are coming from with the tongue in the cheek comment….but I did worry about saying something like that but I hate it when someone tries to discount something by saying it’s a “student project” Maisie has worked as a Pro at newspapers and went back to get her Master’s….and now her previous experience is being belittled because she is a student…..Today’s Multimedia is a new genre so I think we are all currently students to this type of storytelling.

        • Debra Weiss

          @Jonathan Adams, Do you honestly believe multimedia is a new genre? You’re either so young that you’ve never heard of newsreels or so old that your memory is failing you.

      • Debra Weiss

        @duckrabbit,

        a) Yes – I am arrogant and elitist. So what’s your point?
        b) My not thinking this piece is the greatest thing since sliced bread has absolutely nothing to do with the previous sentence.
        c) Hopefully, we will all continually mature. If not, you’re dead.
        d) Your feeble attempts at insults are, well…feeble.
        e) I suggest you learn what libel really is.

        To Jonathan:

        I am not belittling anyone or their experience for being a student. The reason for my reaction to this piece are a bit more substantial than that.

  16. Nothing here is new or revelatory, and frankly- it’s depressing as hell. That’s the short and easy. It’s just told so well, photographed, filmed and edited so seamlessly, that it endures as both warning and testament, to a life lost and a love that endures. Haunting, dreamlike, heartfelt…

  17. SufferinSuccotash

    Morbid. This person needs medical attention. There are perscription drugs to help increase sleep and elevate mood.

    • @SufferinSuccotash, the answer to everything … statistically you are likely to come out of depression faster if you don’t take pills.

      If you want move on in your life you have to grieve.

  18. Avoiding all these other issues; does anyone want to acknowledge that people documentary filmmakers have been creating small documentaries about “anonymous” lives for decades? Stills are usually part of the documentary process too.

    I think the photo community has a set of blinders on when it comes to the fact that this kind of work is nothing new. New to the still community yes, but to call it photography is a bit of misnomer because at this point its really film making isn’t it?

    So in regards to Alex Soth’s comment about photography lacking in its ability to tell a story (a whole other can of worms), can you really defend this as photography if its appropriating all the aspects of film making? And to call the person behind it a “photographer?” I think the title filmmaker would be more applicable.

    Although technically if its all shot digitally on a still camera, how can it be called film making? So down the rabbit hole we go.

    Just trying to raise the issues in a tone of questioning, not necessarily criticizing; and perhaps just beating beating a dead horse over the head in the process.

    • @Brandon, I think you’re spot on. That’s why photographers find it so hard to engage in this kind of work, because they rarely seem to see behind the picture. That’s also why the awards for this kind of work often don;t make sense. Because they are judges by photographers who can’t see beyond the image and are rarely interested in the narrative.

      In this instance yes Maisie is a photographer, but it is the production that is really important. This is as you say a film and it is this that we should be judging first and foremost.

  19. Hi Maisie ,

    Sean Kennedy Santos here , I just came across your work through ‘ A Photo Editor ‘ blog & saw ‘ A life alone ‘ . Then followed the work like an Alice In Wonderland through the keyhole of time & emotion .
    I’m blown away by this body of incomprehensible truth & stunning profound beauty you tell not just in some works but ALL of them .

    Not since meeting James Nachtwey & Eugene Richards on Fat Baby have I witnessed such a breadth of great work .

    I’m very , very impressed , it takes REAL courage in these turbulent times when news papers are folding & photojournalism is being rapidly replaced by what I call ‘ Simple minded – junk media ‘ Glossy celeb mags with no substance .

    Your work brings back to earth a sense of realism & definition missed in journalism today & I truly hope to see MORE of this wonderful spirit in photography you provide to other photographers who respect such greatness in the images you continue to provide .

    Thanks Maisie . Inspirational is not even close enough to say how wonderful your vision is , in capturing the essence of ‘ Life’ .

    I wish you much continued success in ALL your endeavours .

    Ps – if things get tough @ the Globe or you find yourself needing more in life from your own art , I’d be more than happy to make recommendations to people in the know @ the NY times & other fine institutions that I feel would strongly benefit from such a talented woman / artist as yourself .
    The work in ‘ Love me ‘ about Autumn series leaves me lost for words … Simply BRILLIANT . Wow what a gift you have . If you EVER need help from a fellow photographer all you need do is ask . It’s there for the giving .

    All the best . Sean Kennedy Santos

  20. The only thing beautiful about death. Is the fact that we loved someone so much.
    Breathtakingly beautiful piece- Jade

  21. Randy Rose

    Maisie Crow was a godsend at the time my father was in the depths of grieving. I am thankful that she was an attentive listener when he desperately needed one. Now he is making more new friends, checking on old friends, engaged in life and coming slowly out of the emotional low point of his life.