It’s an itch that I can’t stop scratching.  My iPhone.  My personal gateway to distraction.  I’ve sent off the email and get up to stretch — curious…  I notice its all too familiar weight in my hand.  I can’t remember when I grabbed it.  

I’m my own pickpocket.

I unlock my phone and open Instagram.  I’m unable to stop myself.  It’s about as effortless as walking.  As I scroll the bright images, my anticipation builds.  I’m wringing mental lottery tickets.  I’ve never played the lottery, but I’m certain it’s similar.  I land on the feed: PictureDURM.  It’s totally not my photo of the Lucky Strike tower.  Drat.  I was certain that was a shoe-in.  What possibly says Durham better than that white beacon of the Bull City’s smoky past?  How else does someone picture Durham!?

Maybe you can relate to this story.  And if not, then you either need to:

  • Download Instagram
  • Follow PictureDURM
  • Use #picturedurm on your photos
  • Move to Durham, NC

I didn’t used to be into Instagram.  I sometimes feel that social media can isolate us.  But give the right tool to a special person, and they’ll unleash their idea to bring people together.  And that’s what I find endearing about what Meredith Martindale is doing with PictureDURM.  She used something as simple as a hashtag to transcend the digital space and connect with the overlooked citizens of the Bull City.

Meredith is the Communications & Marketing Manager for Investors’ Circle and the Founder & Curator of PictureDURM.  She’s a true Durhamite, born and raised, and possesses a deep passion for this city.  We became friends in the fall of 2015 when StoryDriven made a video for Investors’ Circle, and the following month we attended Donald Miller’s Story Brand workshop.  Meredith is a compassionate, joy-filled soul, and not one to boast.  So it was to my great surprise to learn she created PictureDURM.

So what is PictureDURM?  It’s a curated collection of photos of Durham by Durham.  As Meredith describes it:

“Memory is collective.  The more eyes, the more perspectives, the fuller and richer and more vibrant the picture is.”

The result?  PictureDURM is an overflowing mosaic expressing the outpouring of pride for our the Bull City.  And overflowed it has.

Throughout the winter, Meredith launched a crowdfunding campaign in order to bring PictureDURM out of the digital world and into the community.  She partnered with Urban Ministries in an effort to bring a photographic voice to the often-overlooked citizens of Durham.  With the support of almost 50 participants, the project raised nearly $1,600.  They were able to provide the members of center’s Workforce Development Program with disposable cameras, bus passes to assist on their photo hunts, and develop the photos.  It was an honor to follow Meredith along the steps of this journey, and witness the joy of the amateur photographers as they thumbed through their images.

REEL DURHAM: HOW WE #PICTUREDURM

And so, the StoryDriven team wanted to honor Meredith for her inspiration as we launch our own ode to Durham: Reel Durham.  At StoryDriven, our mission is two-fold:

  1. Inspire people through stories of hope and redemption.
  2. Empower people to tell their own stories.

Reel Durham is our way of doing both.  We want to create an anthology of inspiring stories about interesting people doing amazing things in Durham.  And in the spirit of PictureDURM, we want to encourage you to get involved.  We want you to come along with us on this journey and share your story and the stories that matter to you.

Want to create your own, but aren’t sure how?  We want to help!  Each story we publish will have a story lesson (see below).  In the lessons, we’ll recap a growth experience we encountered in making the piece.  We’ll publish a new story every other week.  So join the conversation, and enjoy the stories!

STORY LESSON: LEAVE ROOM FOR SURPRISE

I teach my team to be intentional about their videomaking.  You really don’t want to spray-and-pray.  Save yourself the pain and the headache and have a plan when you go into a shoot.  Know what you want to get, and why you need it.

Yet at the same time, over-planning can be equally bad.  You can go into a shoot and be so focused on your plan that when life throws a monkey wrench into it, you respond with emotional resistance, and end up with frustration and a missed opportunity.

For documentary work, we want to find the middle ground.  At StoryDriven, we call this “planned authenticity.”

When Meredith and I were grabbing footage for the middle scene.  I knew I wanted to have her laying the photos down on the table.  I intended to create an analog version of the Instagram grid layout and use that as an interesting transition shot away from the phone.

I grabbed the shots I needed and felt we hit a lull.  My gut told me there was more to grab here, but I wasn’t certain what.  At that moment, two of our friends, spotting us from the window, walked in to ask what we were doing.  Meredith immediately lit up and showed them the newly developed photos.

I was stunned.  This was gold!  I could have never anticipated this situation.  I would have feared it too cheesy to plan.  But I was grateful and ran with it.  I knew this story was about moving from social media to genuine social interactions.  Justin and Tom’s curiosity became a useful visual build toward the next scene: the big reveal at Urban Ministries.

Have you ever encountered a surprise on your shoot?
What happened and how did you handle it?
We’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

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Bryce McNabb

About Bryce McNabb

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