One in 8 Million – New York Characters in Sound and Image

Posted: August 12, 2010 in Photojournalism
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The 2009 New York Times multimedia project ‘One in 8 Million‘ profiled a different individual among New York City’s 8 million residents each week of 2009. These individuals, all from diverse cultural, ethical and socio-economical backgrounds were chosen on the basis of the simple criteria ‘Interesting person. Great talker. Never before mentioned in the NYT’ according to the NYT. The black and white profiles of the 54 New York City residents are atmospheric, the photography of Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Todd Heisler is candid and genuine and the stories told are heart-warming.

Photo from the story “Henrique Prince: The Subway Busker” by Todd Heisler

This multimedia project represents photojournalism at its best and showcases the NYT as a newspaper that has understood to invent itself on the internet by making use of the features of this particular medium. The web projects’ interactivity allows the user to quickly scroll through all profiles available and select the ones of most interest. The combination of a photo slideshow and the peoples’ voices telling their story gives a personal insight into their lifes.

Looking at this journalistic project from the perspective of Walter Benjamin and his thoughts on ‘The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction’ I can see several links to his theories. Firstly, when Benjamin talks about the aura of artwork, its presence in time and space and thus its authenticity, he generally dismisses the possibility of reproduced work to have an aura. However, I would argue that ‘One in 8 Million’ possesses aura due to its a very unique and atmospheric combination of photography, storytelling and web design. Although it is freed from an actual presence in a museum, it has a presence on the internet. And somehow I think the internet is taking up parts of the traditional role of museums and galleries: the internet allows you to educate yourself about art, history and science, and to experience this education in a unique, meaningful and interactive way. Thus ‘mechanical reproduction emancipates the work of art from its parasitical dependence on ritual’ (Benjamin, W., p.218).

Further Readings:

Benjamin, W 1935, ‘The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction,’ in Benjamin, W 1992, Illuminations, Fontana Press, London, pp. 211 – 244.


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