For all that has been written and screened about Abraham Lincoln, most of us know him from a series of pictures by Matthew Brady, one of photography’s early giants. They are all remarkably similar – a face, prematurely lined, a jaw, grimly set and eyes that convey both steely determination and unspeakable sadness. We look at these pictures and we feel the strain and tragedy of Civil War.
Who would have guessed that 150 years after Brady’s pioneering work, photography would be just entering its golden age? It’s not that photography is necessarily better. But, it is easier. Brady needed several hundred pounds of gear and the ability to stop and drape a black cloth over his head to accomplish his art. Today we need only pull a smartphone out of our pocket. Even more important, we have instant access to an audience of millions through the Internet. By the end of 2012, people were uploading 300,000 photos a day to Facebook.
At Resource Media, we have been coaching clients to pay attention to visuals for years. Resource Media Vice President Liz Banse and her team brought this sensibility to some campaigns that were tough to visualize such as the effort to create a system of marine protected areas off the coasts of California and Oregon. Liz embodied an old saying from my days in a TV newsroom. “There are no non-visual stories, only non-visual reporters.” Lack of imagery was only an indicator of a failure of imagination.
As Liz pushed this visual approach, she, too, became captivated by the changes technology was bringing to the world of photography. She pushed Resource Media to dig more deeply to understand the science behind why pictures are so effective in reaching people, which photos are the most effective and how to use the explosion of digital tools fueling this new visual revolution.
“Seeing is Believing” is the culmination of two years of research into the art and the science of using pictures to influence, move and motivate people. We are proud to be sharing this new resource with you today. But, in many ways, this is only the beginning. Our goal is to host a learning community that can trade tips and techniques gleaned from real world application of the principles we offer here. In addition, as we learn more from our own work, we will continue to share it with all of you through blogs and tip sheets on this dedicated website. We aim to create a visual lab in the truest sense, a place where we can all experiment and honestly assess what works and what doesn’t as we harness the power of pictures to create change.