June 6, 2014


The online publishing world's visuals crutch

I read something today that really struck a chord.

It was a blog post from the online visual editors at National Public Radio. While NPR may not normally leap to mind when it comes to strong photography, being primarily a radio broadcaster, what their editors had to say was quite profound.

The NPR post was mostly a mission statement and helped define the roles of the online visual journalists in the organization but what they had to say about slideshows was, to me, exactly spot on.

Photo galleries are nice, but when we’ve sent a photographer to far-off lands, it just doesn’t make sense to place their work at the top of a written story, buried under a click, click, click user interface. When we’ve got the art, we want to use it, boldly.

I have made a few photo galleries in my time and I have asked for and commissioned many many more. And now that I think of it, I missed many opportunities to produce something bolder and more compelling.

Not all pictures we take are from “far-off lands” but it is a disservice to ourselves as photographic artists and to our readers to hide so much great work under a boxy, linear application that removes the photographs from the story and is often used as a dumping ground for editors in a hurry to get something up online.

Building compelling image aware websites is hard work. It is supposed to be.

Enough photo galleries. Set your photos free.


Dennis Owen

Photographer at Exposure


  1. I’ve never really thought about it in depth before, but your absolutely right. Galleries (especially at the top of an article) feel cheap. In many cases I’ve completely skipped reading the article after flicking through the photos, feeling that I got enough of a sense after a few visuals. I’m definitely going to keep this in mind when coming across these in the future. It’s hard to break away from that mindset of wanting instant visuals. Today’s online, always connected, instant gratification lifestyle is pushing us further and further away from real writing and subsequent reading. It’s a shame. I’m working hard to move away from that and get to the real soul of this stuff. Hopefully others will too.

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