The Japan Society of New York Shares Visual Storytelling Through Video & Photography
By Lucas Mautner
Jeffrey Miller, President, Japan Society
Recently, the Japan Society of New York presented their Student Exhibition of Visual Storytelling, where students from around the city screened films and exhibited photography. Jeffrey Miller, the Director of Education & Family Programs for the Japan Society, stated “we wanted to provide a workshop that would appeal to students and provide skills that could be used in the future, for hobbies, employment, or general self improvement.” Instructors included Eduardo Angel, an Emmy award-winning videographer, as well as Jaime Schlesinger and Richard Burrowes of the International Center of Photography.
The two week workshop provided students the opportunity to learn video and photography through the lens of Japanese culture. The idea was to focus on the skills of storytelling rather than the equipment. Instructors wanted to show that the story is more important than the camera, regardless of whether it is an expensive rig or a smartphone. The first week focused exclusively on video—pre-production, a day of shooting, post-production, and distribution. In the second week they moved on to photography, focusing on portraits, self-portraits, still lifes, cityscapes, nature landscapes, and more. The program took students out of the classroom and around the city, from Central Park to the Highline. The students even conducted their own Humans of New York-style project where they interviewed and photographed people they met in Bryant Park.
Julia Lee, a student, took to the stage to share her experience with the program. Thinking of a career in media and marketing, Julia said, “Not only do I leave with so much more knowledge about filmmaking and photography, I leave with important skills needed in this field.” Being an only child, she said that she gets her way most of the time, but this course “taught [her] the value and challenges of working with others,” a skill that she especially valued. She also learned skills in mitigating problems: “For example, if I could not get the shot I wanted, I had to find another way of achieving my vision…I learned that I had to do a lot of improvising.”
Briana Ayala, another student, said she was so glad to be able to attend the workshop. She said one surprising takeaway from the course was the ability to see New York in a new light. “One of my challenges that this program really helped address was the fact that, since I’ve lived in New York for 17 years, I stopped seeing the excitement. I felt like there weren’t really any stories left for me to tell here. But Jamie and Eduardo taught me that there are stories wherever you go. You don’t need to be somewhere exotic.”
Some of the “30 Second Films” that were screened include Julia’s The Text, where “a Samurai meets an unexpected fate in this action based movie filled with suspense and a little humor,” and Bree’s Finn the Samurai, where a “modern day Samurai finds a secret message that leads him to some highly silly adventures.”
Every student loved the course, enough so that they would recommend it to others. #