In our last class, Mary Knox Merrill came in to our Reinventing the News Class to discuss her experiences as a multimedia journalist and show the class her work. She currently is a staff photographer for Northeastern and spent five years with the Christian Science Monitor.
I liked Merrill right off the bat – she was informative, passionate and showed us some of her work, which showed her strengths in variety. She reminded me a lot of myself, especially when she talked about spending hours upon hours in the dark room of her college. I, too, was a frequent user of the dark room in my high school age. I would go during every free period I had, playing David Gray and huddling beneath the enlarger, losing track of time developing print after print.
Beyond the warm fuzzy feeling of “knowing exactly what she’s talking about,” her videography skills also proved her strengths as both an artist and journalist. This was seen most obviously in her story about mountain gorillas at the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga National Park.
What I found fascinating about this video, beyond its aesthetic beauty, was the close range of her filming of the animals. The park, which she states on her website to be “the most dangerous national park in the world,” allowed her to cover the story under the warning of its instability and difficult terrain. She told us of her struggles to reach the animals, navigating long and strenuous hikes to reach the gorillas.
While photography can capture the gorillas in a beautiful way, I felt her work in videography with the animals is what made the story. It allowed us to watch the interaction between the animals, highlighting their movement styles and giving me that humane thought: “Oh my goodness, look how similar they are to me!”
She also showed us this video, a segment covering Northeastern University’s plans to combine artificial intelligence and political science to solve real world problems. While I think the video was well-done, I didn’t find it to be as enjoyable as her gorilla piece. It was a bit too commercial for me, and it definitely took on a more subjective feel, with the music and overall tone of the piece.
After finding out this piece was a creation to fulfill her duties working for the Northeastern Public Relations office, it made much more sense to me why it didn’t have a more objective stand.
I went under the photography tab of her website and fell in love with her pictures of Asia, particularly the photo of the jockeys. I am a huge fan of candid portrait photography, and she captured a lot of facial intensity in the first picture. Going onto the second picture of the jockeys in action, she took an amazing photo of their mid-game play. I didn’t feel videography would be necessary for this story, seeing how effective her photography skills were in capturing the excitement of the game.
Merrill came at the perfect time to our class, as we begin to embark on our 3-week long video project. I tried to remember her unique photography angles when shooting pictures and video of runners along the Charles. While my camera isn’t quite as good as hers may be, I think the quality of many stories increases tenfold thanks to the power of the lens.