This is why I am challenging myself to study story as deeply and as passionately as I have studied photography. I believe that our photographs or videos alone are not enough to truly touch people or motivate them to action. It is only when they connect with the story of a beautiful image that that image holds power.
I’m sure that if you are in the nonprofit world you know that storytelling is being heralded as the next best thing since sliced bread. You are probably sick of photographers throwing down that gauntlet and asking you to get excited by it.
Perhaps the biggest problem with storytelling is that we haven’t learned to differentiate between the mediocre stories and the amazing ones. Instead when we’re told to create a story, we fall back on the formula that we all know: Person A has a problem. Nonprofit B helps Person A with that problem. Then Person As life improves.
This story is the one I see the most often and I wonder if we’ve become immune to it. I wonder if it’s our fallback because we think it should motivate others to action. Just because a story exists doesn’t mean that it's good. It doesn’t mean that people will find it interesting or compelling. It doesn’t mean that it will motivate people to take action. There are a lot of boring stories out in the world and just because storytelling happens to be the latest, greatest thing doesn’t mean that it is.
So this year, I’m asking myself one tough question. Am I willing to put the same amount of study into the story building process as I have into photography? Every storyteller from Shonda Rhimes to Joseph Campbell use formulas to tell a story. And certain genres like to stick to certain formulas. But I am interested in all the formulas. I’m interested in telling incredible stories.
I’m talking about stories that knock your socks off. Stories that make your donors want to give you a million dollars. Stories that turn your video into an Internet sensation because people cannot deny the power it holds.
I believe that it’s possible that if I spend the next year looking at stories, storytellers, and story formulas that I might stumble on some magic. I might discover the secret sauce. If I can understand what makes people tick or the psychology of why they give and how they connect then I can not only create incredible images, I can use those images to tell stories that create change.