“Multimedia is the only way to go”

The Danish photojournalist and multimedia producer Henrik Kastenskov from production house Bombay Flying Club (BFC) hosts the 3-day workshop Multimedia Storytelling for Photographers during the first PhotoStories conference. An interview about ‘the platform of the future.’

What were your main objectives for founding BFC?
‘We started our production company partly out of frustration. Poul Madsen and myself worked as photojournalists for national Danish newspapers. At one point it was just not satisfying anymore, the size of our images reduced more and more, photos were often tucked away in the corner of the paper. In 2005 we got in touch with web documentaries, which intrigued us instantly as the web as a media platform is a unique and exciting medium with its own set of rules.’

So you started to work on your first web documentary right away?
‘Yes, in 2006 we produced The Ardoyne Suicides, a webdoc about a suicide spate in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The project was filmed in Ardoyne and Glenbryn, two small neighbouring communities on different sides of the sectarian divide at the outskirts of Belfast. There, 13 people committed suicide during a six-week period at the end of 2003 and early 2004. The story is divided into short chapters and focuses on the deaths of three young men during this period.’

Was it well received?
‘We were awarded second place in the Best of Photojournalism category, organised by the National Press Photographers Association. It was a great start of our new mission: Taking photojournalism a step further. To this day we still receive email responds to the story on a regular basis.’

What is your opinion about photography and new media?
‘It’s the only way to go. Due to the recession of the print media, the web became the important platform. It is important that big media find a new way to tell stories, and from that earn money. Because the web allows everyone of us to publish stories worldwide, it can lead to a decline in quality, and without a high quality in reporting, journalism on the web is obsolete. This is the major challenge of the platform.’

“Bad sound kills great photography. If the audio is crap, people click away”

Is it a challenging field for photographers?
‘Oh yes, one of the biggest challenges is to convey the fact that audio is a vital part of photography. Bad sound kills great photography. If the audio is crap people click away instantly. The trick is to approach the web as a unique medium with a unique set of rules if you will. You have to tell a complete story in 5 to 15 minutes. That is a very dense form of documentary. It is pretty hard to narrow a story down and keep it subtle at the same time.’

What is your favourite multimedia project ever?
‘Bjarke Myrthu produced an interactive documentary in 2004, The Enemy Within. It still sets the standard, even though it is seven years old. It is very well made. The sound, photos, storyline, graphics, it is the whole package that makes it such an amazing project. He really pushed the possibilities of the medium.’

Do you consider your latest project, A Matter of Decency, equally successful?
A Matter of Decency was very much a Danish story, which I really liked. In 2009 we looked at our portfolio and realised that we went everywhere but Denmark. The story is about Danish citizens who choose to break the law in order to help underground refugees. In terms of hits it was not so successful, in terms of impact it was. We won the first prize in Best of Multimedia in the Danish Picture of the Year awards, so we did something right. We weren’t able to push it to Danish media, which was predictable because web documentaries in Denmark’s big media really hasn’t moved beyond Soundslides. I regret that Denmark is so conservative. I really wonder if that will ever change.’

This interview was published on the website and in the programmeguide of the PhotoStories conference, May 2011.