‘History has always been the story of the victorious’
Thanks to the internet, anyone can share their story and become a part of documented history. Millions use the likes of YouTube as a platform to express themselves, and many have become social phenomena as a result.
An obvious example is Justin Bieber, the 16 year old who found fame via YouTube. Since an agent spotted one of Bieber’s home-made music videos on the video-sharing website, the teenager has topped charts and broken records; with over 365 million hits and growing, his collaboration with Ludacris is currently the most viewed YouTube video of all time.
A notable trend within the most recent list of top ten most viewed YouTube videos is the prevalence of amateur material. Dotted amongst professional productions from the music industry are snippets from the lives of common people. The popularity of these videos demonstrates our celebration of the ordinary, something which photographer, documentarist and academic Daniel Meadows started doing over 35 years ago.
Meadows, who has taught at Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies since 1994, started his professional career by focusing on the ordinary person. After studying photography at Manchester Polytechnic, his career took off in an old red double-decker bus, a portable studio better known as the Free Photographic Omnibus.
During that 10,000 mile journey around England, which took place between 1973-74, Meadows photographed members of the general public in a bid to compile a national portrait of the English. Decades later a selection of those photos featured in Tate Britain’s 2007 blockbuster show: ‘How We Are – Photographing Britain’. Between 2001 – 2006 Meadows was also creative director of the award-winning BBC ‘Capture Wales’ Digital Storytelling project.
Digital storytelling, according to Meadows, is a convivial tool which allows anyone to tell their story. A micro-video of around 2 minutes in length (containing approximately 250 words and 12 pictures), a digital narrative is a compact space within which an individual tells a tale about him or herself. Digital stories are best made at a workshop, but you can also learn how to make one yourself by following Meadows’ online tutorial.
The voices of those who took part in the ‘Capture Wales’ project are numerous and vary in tone: from a husband’s comical depiction of his wife’s shoe obsession to Welsh-speaker Abigail Elliott’s poignant account of losing her mother. Each digital story is a part of what Meadows defines as ‘the invisible history of Wales’ i.e. an authentic part of history which would otherwise have remained unrecorded.
Meadows describes the opportunities of the digital age as ‘enormous’, and while he does not object to mainstream media, he does believe that there is always an alternative. To him, digital storytelling is a form of democratization which allows the public to hear stories from the nation itself, rather than just from the newsroom.
As Meadows says, ‘everyone has a story’ – why not share yours?