This blog entry relates to the Public Image and Communication session that my colleague Nelson Scott and I presented to the Rotary District 5370 Fall Learning Assembly on October 22, 2016 in Edmonton, Alberta. We focused on storytelling as the key to communication in Rotary as well as in other parts of our lives. While our presentation was directed to Presidents-Elect of Rotary Clubs, Assistant District Governors, Youth Chairs and other Rotarians involved in leadership roles in their clubs and in Rotary District 5370, the main points of our discussion relate to all parts of our professional and personal lives.
Storytelling has been the primary method of communication throughout history. People sitting around fires in caves told stories, and some historians suggest that early cave painting may have been used to preserve the stories for the use of future storytellers. Most of us learned about storytelling from our parents and grandparents, and from the poems and novels we read as children and later as adults.
The universe is made of stories, not atoms. The stories that we tell literally make the world, and If we want to change the world we have to change our stories.
As storytellers – and we are all storytellers – we don’t tell people what to think, but we do remind them of the questions they might wish to think about. We share our stories with others in part because it helps us make sense out of them. These stories are not complete unless we share them.
Stories can captivate an audience – and listeners retain them far better than facts, spread sheets, and statements listed as bullet points on a screen. Stories can be a way for humans to feel that we have control over the world. They help us to see patterns where there is chaos, and meaning where there is randomness.
Stories build relationships. We want to establish a relationship with storytellers and their stories, and we want to share experiences and ideas with them.
We learn about ourselves when we tell stories. People listen to us when we tell when we tell a story, hoping that we’ll succeed and and that they can join us on the journey. Our journeys are often similar and we learn about ourselves when we are presenting and when we are listening.
Telling Your Rotary Stories
Business leaders are now focusing more on stories in their presentations and less on facts. We remember most of the stories that we hear but we remember comparatively few facts and data that are part of presentations. Also, people are more interested in why you do what you do, why your company sells a particular product or service and how you decided to go in that direction. If you tell them they are much more likely to form a relationship with you and your company.
Many Rotarians think that effective public relations and communications strategies consist primarily of billboards, media releases and articles in The Rotarian magazine. These strategies are not primarily storytelling, although they do contain information and knowledge.
Stories are about individuals. They’re about us and the people we have worked with and learned from. We all have stories, stories that could inform and excite people about Rotary and what it does – and, even more important, what it could do. People are usually more interested in why you do something than what you do.
Stories are about us. They are often about how we have failed, then learned and finally succeeded, but perhaps not in the way that we expected. Your honesty and willingness to be vulnerable is what draws your audience in. As storytellers we share what is true to us at the time.
Learn more about storytelling, invite storytellers (Rotarians and others) to speak at your club and to help you find your voice as a storyteller. Tell your stories to friends, family, prospective members and others.
Stories are about change. No struggle, no change, no story.
Using New Media to Share Your Stories
Rotary International is using Facebook, Twitter and other new media to share information and stories. We as individual Rotarians and representatives of our clubs can share our Rotary stories with people in our community and throughout the world by using new media such as Twitter and Facebook. Sometimes one e-mail from one person can change the lives of hundreds or thousands of people.
We, as Rotarians, use storytelling, traditional news media, and social media to tell our stories. We cannot depend entirely on any one method of telling those stories, but, rather, must learn how to tell ourselves and the people in our communities about what Rotary does, and what it can do.
Links to Stories I told as Part of this Session, and Links to Other Podcasts and Blogs About Storytelling
I was delighted to participate in the Parkland Regional Library Conference – Where Magic Happens, held on September 26, 2016 at the Memorial Centre in Lacombe, Alberta. I discussed book publishing in Alberta with the librarians who attended my session as well as the history, the present, and the future of book publishing in Alberta.
These notes (which include links and supplementary material) may be helpful to those who attended my session – and interesting to others who were not at this conference.
The Importance of Books and Stories
Culture is conversation. Writing, reading, editing, printing, distributing, cataloguing, reviewing, can be fuel for that conversation, ways of keeping it lively. It could even be said that to publish a book is to insert it into the middle of a conversation, that to establish a publishing house, bookstore or library is to start a conversation – a conversation that springs, as it should, from local debate, but that opens up, as it should to all places and times.
Zaid’s idea of inserting a book into a conversation created interest in our group. Publishers, authors, booksellers, librarians and readers recommend and promote books to their audiences and friends. We do our best to choose books which will be successful in meeting the needs of readers and we insert those books into as many conversations as possible.
The world is made of stories, not atoms. Books and other art forms help us to create and sustain those stories. We not only tell stories – we are stories. Librarians help us to find the stories that have been published, and they encourage writers and publishers to tell us more about our culture and our environment.
Publishing Books in Alberta
The Book Publishers Association of Alberta was created in 1975, with five founding members. The Association is a broadly-based professional organization representing and providing services and support for 28 book publishers in Alberta. The BPAA serves as an information source for its members, authors, and the public, and provides joint projects, programs and opportunities to assist publishers with book promotion, and professional development, helping them to thrive and adapt in a highly competitive industry.
The BPAA was one of the exhibitors at the conference, displaying and discussing books from their publishers, including those which won awards at the recent BPAA Book Publishing Awards gala.
While most of us continue to think of books as conventional paper products an increasing number of readers are using e-books in addition to paperbacks and hard-cover books. People who travel extensively may prefer to read books on their iPads, and students may prefer to do the same. Readers want the opportunity to choose the formats and products that best meet their needs.
We discussed how e-books can be used to promote and inform, and how some publishers have created enhanced e-books and apps to provide a different types of reading and learning experiences.
The BPAA is currently aggregating the collection of e-books that have been published by their members, with the goal of making them available to all Albertans through the library systems. There will be approximately 1200 titles in the collection. The project also includes the acquisition of new e-book titles as they become available as ongoing additions to the collections. The goal is to have the collection available through libraries in October.
Short Run Publishing
Some printers now provide short print runs for individuals, groups and small publishers, coupled, in some cases, with marketing and promotion services. On Demand Books has produced the Espresso Book Machine which prints a conventional book in several minutes. Espresso Book Machines are located in a number of Canadian institutions and private bookstores including the Toronto Public Library, the Edmonton Public Library, McNally Robinson (Winnipeg), Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto Bookstore, University of Prince Albert University Bookstore, and the University of Victoria Bookstore.
Books Discussed in the Session
Alternative Futures For What We Currently Call Publishing – An exciting exploration of the future of publishing, produced by the BPAA in 2012, featuring chapters by Todd Anderson, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Jessica Legacy, Donna Livingstone, Jerome Martin, Paul Martin, and Kirby Wright. This is a free e-book, available on the BPAA site.
Golden Prairie – Jerome Martin. 2007. This is a free e-book, with text, audio, and photographs. Spotted Cow Press.
London – Jerome Martin. 2009. This is a free e-book, with text, audio, and photographs. Spotted Cow Press.
Stephen Leacock, the famous Canadian humorist, teacher and writer, said: 'If I were founding a university I would begin with a smoking room; next a dormitory; and then a decent reading room and a library. After that, if I still had more money that I couldn’t use, I would hire a professor and get some text books.’
If Leacock were writing this today he would have probably said that that he would begin with a coffee shop, not a smoking room – but otherwise his ideas fit well with those who write about the third place (coffee shops, libraries etc.), informal learning, and how students learn from each other and from the world around them. Late night conversations in residence, discussions over coffee with fellow students, and explorations of library books and other resources are some of the most productive and interesting learning experiences available to students.
I lived in residence at the University of Saskatchewan and became friends with students in virtually every faculty on campus. Living on campus allowed me to attend concerts, play with a college band and a concert band, attend theatre presentations, and meet students from other countries.
I studied science and agriculture but found that I was also interested in English, History and a variety of other subjects; I learned to appreciate areas of study that other students chose, and to read books that they recommended. I still have books that were given to me by friends I met on campus in the early 1960s – books which included One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Selected Writings of Herman Melville, and The Faulkner Reader. Being in residence was one of the highlights of my university years.
My University residence (Qu’Appelle Hall) was very close to the College Building (now known as the Peter McKinnon Building), which contained Convocation Hall. Since there were no classes between noon and 1:00 PM student groups invited politicians and others to speak at Convocation Hall and the Memorial Union Building.
Speaking to several hundred university students can be a humbling or an invigorating experience. Lester Pearson was indignant as the crowd laughed when he referred to himself as the next Prime Minister – but, of course, he later became Canada’s 14th Prime Minister. Tommy Douglas, however, was always delighted when he was asked difficult questions by young Conservatives and Liberals because this gave him opportunities to engage in conversations with these students about current issues. He also had witty and appropriate responses for hecklers which everyone, including the hecklers, enjoyed.
Living in residence gave me the opportunity to attend evening lectures by visiting authors, scientists and experts in various fields. Most of these were held in Convocation Hall. I decided that I would go to as many of these as possible, especially those with speakers who were unknown to me. One cold and snowy evening I went to a lecture by Laurens Van Der Post. I did not know who he was, only that he would be speaking about Africa. It proved to be one of the finest presentations I had attended. Van Der Post discussed his life in South Africa, his wartime experiences, and his books, including The Lost World of the Kalahari. His presentation and his books (which I read later) were probably factors in my decision to spend the summer of 1964 in Kenya with Operation Crossroads Africa.
Dr. Hans Selye and his research related to stress in a medical context are well known now, but in the early 1960s when he spoke in Convocation Hall I had never heard of him or stress as we now understand it. I learned about the significance of stress in a short time from this amazing man who was responsible for most of the early work in this area.
By living on campus I was also able to attend concerts (and practices) of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, theatre productions, and student musical events. Folk singers, including the great Guy Carawan included the U of S on their concert tours. Carawan, who visited the University twice in two years, introduced the protest song ‘We Shall Overcome’ to the American Civil Rights Movement.
We can provide new opportunities in our learning system by using technology appropriately, especially for those who cannot attend classes regularly. However, we should recognize that students who attend universities and colleges – particularly those who live on campus – have unique learning opportunities, not all of which relate to classes, degree programs and job opportunities. Living on campus and taking advantage of the learning opportunities that are available can be as significant as what we learn in classrooms.
This blog entry relates to a presentation which I will be giving to the Alberta Institute of Agrologists Annual Conference on Agriculture, Food and the Environment, April 20, 2016 at the Banff Centre. It contains links to some of the companies and new media that I will discuss in the session.
Storytelling is the oldest and the newest way to to communicate. It began when ancient peoples sat around fires, sharing stories about their lives.. Storytellers used songs, poetry, dance and visual art such as cave paintings to tell these stories and to pass them on to others. Business leaders, teachers, and many others are recognizing the importance and the effectiveness of stories.
We tell stories about our lives, our goals, our achievements, and our difficulties so that we can make sense of them. Storytelling is the most effective way of understanding the world and communicating that understanding to others.
We tell stories to describe ourselves, not only so others can understand who we are, but also so that we can as well. We share our stories with others in part because it helps us to make sense of them. Until we share them they are not complete, just paintings, photographs and other works of art are not complete until they are shared with an audience.
As storytellers, we don’t tell people what to think, but we do remind them of the questions they may wish to think about.
The poet Muriel Rukeyser said that ‘The universe is made of stories, not atoms.’ If we wish to change the world we must change our stories.
Dave Lieber explains storytelling, its form and its power, in his presentation at TEDxSMU in 2013. I had the pleasure of hearing Dave discuss storytelling last year at a meeting in Edmonton.
What are new media and how can we use them to tell stories?
That question has already been answered by millions of people across the world. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and many other products give us opportunities to communicate with each other, using words, photographs, and audio, anytime, anywhere. We now can reach specialized groups of people as well as large numbers of people with multiple interests.
Podcasts and storytelling were made for each other. One can listen to stories told around the world by some of the best storytellers in scores of podcasts. Try The Moth podcast (’true stories told live’), This American Life, and others that you’ll find online. You won’t be alone: podcasts are becoming very popular. This American life podcasts, for example, are each downloaded approximately one million times.
Golden Prairie – Jerome Martin started photographing the southwestern Saskatchewan village of Golden Prairie in 1955. This 2007 e-book, which contains text and photographs, includes those early photographs and others from the following decades. Free download.
London – A multimedia e-book (2009) based on photographs made in the 1970s by Jerome Martin. Free download.
I spent my childhood living on a farm and, later, in a village near that farm in southern Saskatchewan. There were no libraries or book stores nearby, but my parents belonged to a book club which sent their latest offerings to us regularly. I became an avid reader and a keen student of literature and many other subjects.
I bought my first hard cover book – a first edition of W. O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen The Wind – when I went to University. Mitchell signed it years later. The book was the first book I had seen that was about the area in which I lived and its people.The textbooks we used in school were published in Toronto, London or New York. Western Canada was mentioned as an agricultural area – perhaps quaint, but undeveloped – which provided markets for eastern industrial products. W. O. Mitchell and several other authors began to write about the prairies and the people who lived in this remarkable part of North America. Who Has Seen the Wind became the first book in my collection, and is still one of the most significant.
My wife and I have bought books, for ourselves and for others, published books, and considered them to be amongst our most valuable possessions. Some of them are fiction, while others focus on photography, history, nature, and philosophy. We now have a library that can be browsed and used regularly, a library that still surprises and excites us. We love fine books, books which are well written and well designed, objects which provide sustenance and beauty.
Those of us who collect books tend to specialize in particular genres, styles, subjects and countries of origin. Since we all have limited space to store and admire and use our books, we may sell or give some of them to friends and neighbours. A fine book is a great gift for the right person; and while some books become very valuable with age, many have limited economic worth. Some books are published inexpensively and are not meant to appeal to book collectors – although they may prove to be valuable because of their content and context.
E-books have become popular with some readers, especially those who travel. One can put hundreds or thousands of books on a reader, or on an iPhone or iPad, just what we may want or need on a long trip. In 2005, I spoke at a scientific conference in Uganda, where I urged scientists and publishers of scientific journals to adopt the use of e-journals rather than publishing paper journals. They were very interested. Just prior to the meeting, I visited the Director of the library at a local university where I was pleased, but not surprised, to learn that this library owned and lent many e-books and hoped to buy more as soon as they became available. Shipping paper books around the world is an expensive process.
Speed of access is another reason why e-books are popular in academic and other circles. Acquiring a book from a publisher thousands of miles away takes only minutes, just enough time to provide a credit card number and download the book. E-books have other advantages: they can be updated readily, they are less expensive to purchase, and they may contain audio, video and live links.
Book buyers, writers and publishers often debate the relative values of paper and e-books. Each of these products has unique qualities and advantages. They are simply different, just as a car is different from a truck or a van. Buy, rent or borrow the books or vehicles that will meet your needs at a specific time. Just because something is new doesn’t mean that it will replace an older product. Instead, new products find a niche and may capture the majority or the minority of a market. Film photography and vinyl records have not disappeared since they have unique qualities and avid users.
While I still collect and read paper books, I will continue to get information and knowledge from new media sources and newspapers which I read online and on paper. I can learn virtually anything that I want to learn, whenever I wish to learn it, with the material that is available online and in libraries. I hope that we can make this knowledge available to everyone in the world who wants to access it. Libraries, online access and computers that are as inexpensive as radios will help us make this happen.
In 1967, my wife Merle and I attended a retrospective exhibition of the works of photographer Dorothea Lange. The touring exhibition, created by the Museum of Modern Art, featured 75 of the 87 prints which comprised the original MOMA exhibition. It was presented at what was then the University of Alberta Art Gallery and Museum, located at 9021-112 Street in Edmonton, Alberta.
This was the first major exhibition of photography that I had ever seen, and it will likely be one of the most memorable of any art exhibition I will ever see.
Lange's photographs (including the iconic Migrant Mother, below) brought the depression and the 'dirty thirties' in the Great Plains and other parts of the USA to life. Since the dirty thirties also had a profound effect on the land and the people of the Canadian prairies, Lange’s images reflected my life as well the lives of millions of other people of The Great Plains. I cannot imagine that anyone looking at these photographs would not be affected by them.
Lange’s exhibition showed me what documentary photography was and could be. I realized, after seeing Lange’s work, that the photographs I had made in Golden Prairie, Saskatchewan, in 1955, were part of the documentary tradition. Much of my later work can also be described as documentary.
In his review of the Lange exhibition, Virgil Hammock, the Edmonton Journal’s art critic, said that the attendance at the exhibition would not likely be as high as it should be, since most people in Edmonton at that time did not think that photography was art. He felt that this would be unfortunate, since this exhibition was one of the most important bodies of work ever shown at the University Art Gallery.
Times have changed. In 1974, The Edmonton Art Gallery (now the Art Gallery of Alberta) created their first exhibition of photography entitled Photography Alberta ’74. Twelve photographers were represented by 58 prints. I was pleased to be one of those photographers. Exhibitions of photographs in major public galleries in Europe, North America and other parts of the world are now as common as those of other types of visual art. Photography has come of age – or perhaps we have.
Major museums no longer list the photographs in their collections on the basis of content, but rather will identify them, if possible, by the names of the artists who made them. Recently, in a New York Times article art critic Holland Cotter stated ‘But, of course, art itself has changed. It is no longer about things, hasn’t been for decades. Since the great surge of dematerialization introduced by conceptualism in the 1960s, art has been about, among other things, ideas, actions, sounds, performance, networks, communication.'
Exhibitions provide opportunities for viewing work, often in the context of other forms of art, discussions, reflections, and ideas. While we can learn about visual art online, seeing paintings, photographs and other forms of art in public and private galleries and museums can provide an intimacy and a learning experience that is unique.
The term found photography refers to the recovery of lost, unclaimed or discarded images. One might find such photographs in second-hand stores, garage sales, on the street or in boxes of memorabilia that Uncle Harold left in the attic many years ago.
Friends have told me that they have discarded many of the photographs left to them by family members: ‘We didn’t know who the people in the photographs were or where the photographs were made so we chucked them.’ We lose many valuable historical resources and some amazing images this way.
James Borcoman, photographer and former Curator of Photographs at the National Gallery of Canada, said ‘The photograph can confront us with both the universal and the particular at the same instant in time. The strange tension that results between these two polarities is the force that can make the photograph so moving or poignant or disturbing.'
While a photograph hanging on a gallery wall may be expected to fit Borcoman’s description more than a photograph that is discovered in a closet or thrift shop, both images may, indeed, be moving, poignant or disturbing.
This postcard photograph comes from a collection of my wife’s family’s papers. While there is no legible postmark the stamp on the card is a one cent Canadian with the image of King George VI, issued in 1942. The caption at the bottom of the image says that it is a lake view from a hotel on Lake Menaki, Ontario. The Lodge was built by the Canadian National Railway in 1914, and was destroyed by fire in 2003.
This is a fine image that reflects a time when people came to stay at Menaki and similar hotels across Canada for weeks at a time. Perhaps some of you may have visited the hotel or the current site. If so, I would be delighted to hear from you.
Collectors of found photographs may collect images like this one – or images that relate to virtually any subject (see Other People’s Pictures).
Found photographs may be inexpensive or free, but they may tell us a lot about the world around us. They may also help us discover previously unknown photographers, such as Vivian Maier: A Photographer Found.
The French painter Paul Delaroche proclaimed ‘From today, painting is dead’ in 1839 when the daguerreotype was announced. It was the first of many such proclamations about developments in photography and other forms of visual art, the latest being that film photography will soon vanish entirely.
Art is more than painting, photography or any other single medium. Recently, in a New York Times article entitled Review: The Broad is an Old-Fashioned Museum for a New Gilded Age, art critic Holland Cotter stated ‘But, of course, art itself has changed. It is no longer about things, hasn’t been for decades. Since the great surge of dematerialization introduced by conceptualism in the 1960s, art has been about, among other things, ideas, actions, sounds, performance, networks, communication.'
While we can view and create art online we continue to enjoy and learn from exhibitions at galleries and museums. Prior to the early 1970s such institutions seldom showed or collected photographs. However, exhibitions of photographs in major public galleries in Europe, North America and other parts of the world are now as common as those of other types of visual art. Exhibitions provide opportunities for viewing work, often in the context of other forms of art, discussions, reflections, and ideas. Photography has come of age – or perhaps we have.
Photographs by Jerome Martin (FORM II Exhibition, 2015). Painting by Robert Sinclair (Collection of Merle and Jerome Martin).
Some galleries and museums in North America embraced photography earlier than others:
Collecting photography allows us to invest a little or a lot in images. Photographs which are purchased from galleries or artists range in price from several hundred dollars to hundreds of thousand dollars. One can also collect family and found photographs, postcards, and other images, most of which are inexpensive.
The increasing interest in photography and collecting photographs has resulted in a large number of Photo Festivals throughout the world. While some of these have been held annually for many years, most photography festivals are relatively new. In 2008 I arrived in Dublin on July 30, the second last day of the second annual PhotoIreland festival. My wife and attended several exhibitions in the last two days of the festival and two others which continued into August.
Attending festivals is an excellent way to see a variety of exhibitions in a short time and to meet fellow photographers and collectors. Local exhibitions in public and private galleries provide similar opportunities. If you travel extensively, you will find photo galleries in many cities throughout the world. Visit them, learn about the photographers they represent, and consider buying a photograph or a book.
If you are a photographer, a collector of photographs, or someone who wants to learn about photography, browse the following sites and use the links in them to go further. In subsequent blog entries, I’ll discuss books, blogs, and other resources which deal with photography and collecting photographs.
Online Sites on Photography and Collecting Photographs
I’ve been doing a lot of printing in my darkroom recently, preparing for an exhibition and catching up on printing family images. I’ve been working in that darkroom since 1973, learning, processing negatives, producing images, learning, planning new exhibitions and books, learning.
Film photographers choose films and formats for the types of work they do. We may choose 35 mm, medium format (120 or 220 film), or large format (4x5, 8x10) cameras. Some of us use all of these formats, although most of us have a favourite. We also choose particular chemicals – developers, for example – and processing techniques to process our films and create prints.
Darkroom printing is an art in itself, as is printing based on Photoshop. One can choose from various papers, and then make decisions about enlarger exposure time and paper grade.
These are test strips from one of my photographs, showing seven different exposures (5 - 35 seconds) with two grades of paper, Grade Two (normal contrast) and Grade Three (higher contrast). These strips were made many years ago using my favourite paper, Ilford Galerie, a warm tone fibre-based paper which is no longer available. Many photographers now use multigrade paper and filters in their enlargers to change the contrast of prints, although graded paper is still available.
Which paper and which exposure would you choose for this image? That may seem like a simple question, but it is not. There is no right answer, only choices that relate to how one interprets the image. Our interpretation of our images may be different when we view them years after we first printed them.
I would be delighted to receive your comments and choices with respect to this image.