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‘The Quest’ for iPad: some more editing considerations and organising it

See also: ‘The Quest’ for iPad: why?, ‘The Quest’ for iPad: the team, ‘The Quest’ for iPad: organising content, ‘The Quest’ for iPad: about editing

CAMBODIA. Phnom Penh. 9/03/2012: Working on 'The Quest' for iPad at K4Media studio.

CAMBODIA. Phnom Penh. 9/03/2012: Working on 'The Quest' for iPad at K4Media studio.

Right, now there are about 750 pictures in the edit for ‘The Quest’ for iPad, spread across 20 different chapters. That is a lot of material. Much more than for a book and way much more than for a publication in a magazine. I guess it will be a whole new territory to explore for the readers and may be difficult to swallow. Partly because to my knowledge it is the first time they will have access to that number of photographs on one story. But remember: not that long ago photojournalists were working with Speed Graphics and would shoot one or two pictures of an event. That is all they could choose from. That is all the reader could be shown. Then came the medium format and the photographer had the possibility to shoot 12 views in one stretch. Then Leica came and it became three times as much.

How easy was it for photographers to adapt and appreciate the freedom of having much more to choose from? Still, even going from one picture of an event to 36, the resulting edit was tight. Had to be tight: prints had to be made, stamped, packed, sent. It was time consuming and expensive. Photographers had to be very disciplined and show restraint, targeting the essence of a story, leaving aside the details. Here too digital photography is a game changer… Besides the initial cost of hardware, there is little or no obstacle during the actual shooting to collect as much pieces of the puzzle as needed. Putting together a story is like a puzzle. With digital it becomes a very big puzzle, with lots of pieces. However big it may be, the puzzle still has corners, edges and obvious pieces to rely on and help reconstruct the whole story.

That is where an ebook fits in perfectly: it finally gives the possibility to provide much more content in an easy to carry package, showing the essence AND dig deeper into a story at the same time. There is no real need to mimic the size of a ‘classic’ book anymore. Will the really good pictures be hidden, surrounded as they are by the inevitable weaker ones? Maybe… But the ubiquitous presence of photography, yes even bad photography, from the last 20 years has taught a much broader base of people how to read photographs properly. Never has there been such a wide public who knows about photography. For sure their better trained eye can see the more important pictures, without neglecting the value of the others.

And anyhow, for the really tight edits there are other venues, other platforms. I believe it is impossible these days to rely on only one way of distributing documentary photography. A publication of 4 spreads in a magazine (if you are lucky), a book, exhibitions, a multi-media piece like the Magnum in Motion series, a slideshow, posts on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and ebooks: all of them should be used more or less simultaneously to tell the story. They all are complementary, support each other, give the viewer a broad scope of possibilities to apprehend an issue. The discipline a photographer has to show during the editing process has not diminished. He simply has to adapt his work to the platform.

‘The Quest’ for iPad is just one proposal for this story about evictions in Cambodia. Hopefully exhibitions, a book printed on real paper, a multimedia piece will follow.

The selections of pictures for an exhibition are ready. So is the selection for a first version of a dummy for a ‘traditional’ book. The structure of the book will be approximately the same as for the iPad version. Just a few chapters less and about 1/3 of the pictures.

‘The Quest’ for iPad will have the following chapters:

The present-day situation is covered by the first three chapters:

-Land, Water and Tradition
-Working the Land
-New Land

The stories of various evictions follow with 13 chapters, some with just 18 pictures, a few others with nearly 100. Most of those pictures are ordered in a near-chronological way:

-Land Roulette
-Phnom Penh the Beauty
-Bird’s Nest Blaze
-Rubber for Resin
-Emptying the Bird’s Nest
-Petitioning the Palace
-Bulldozers, Teargas and Thugs
-Aftermath
-March of the Damned
-A Failed Model
-The Last Chance
-Land and “Blood Sugar”
-Choked in Sand

Three chapters with the consequences of evictions are presented in:

-Hands for Hire
-Migration Perils
-Development Landscapes

A final chapter, containing historical pictures, sheds some light on the situation and meaning of land possession through Cambodian history:

-Land in Cambodia

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