Just when you thought the story was perfect…

 There’s something magical about telling a story in front of a video camera.

 When I interview war veterans for my Morning Call series War Stories: In Their Own Words, http://www.mcall.com/news/local/warstories/ I rack up hours of audio recordings during visits spaced out over days and weeks, sometimes months. In the end, when I have my narrative, I tend to think: The story can’t get any better than what I have.

Then, as one of the last steps before publication, a Morning Call photographer comes to the vet’s home to shoot stills and video. The video starts to run and the veteran tells a story I’m familiar with, from having spent so much time with him.

But guess what? He says something a different way that perhaps is more poignant than what I have on my audio recording. Or maybe he uses a turn of phrase that’s more evocative. Maybe he fills in a gap I hadn’t realized existed, which will add to a reader’s understanding of his experience.

Occasionally, he’ll say something that will jab me to check the accuracy of what I’ve written – and save me from getting a piece of the story wrong.

When any of this happens, when I get a richer narrative from the veteran’s off-the-cuff remembrances in front of a camera, I shake my head in amazement and praise the power of video.

It’s happened so often, I’ve learned to run my digital audio recorder the same time as the photographer is doing the filming, so I don’t miss the gems.           

Back in the office, the photographer goes to work turning the interview into art, mixing footage of the vet telling his story with still pictures of him, with artifacts such as medals or old weapons, and with potent archival photos. The video lasts only a few minutes, but the melding of now-and-then images produces a stunning effect.

Photographer Harry Fisher, who has worked with me on many of the war stories, turns to Real War Photos, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., for the contemporary pictures. http://www.realwarphotos.com/

You need to see this material to appreciate it, so click on the links below for a sampling of Harry’s work: 

For Woody Woods in the Battle of the Huertgen Forest:


For Don Burdick on the siege of Bastogne:


For Dan Curatola on D-Day:


For Don Burdick on the liberation of Dachau:

Finally and most recently, from last Thursday, Veterans Day, here’s Stanley Parks on the Battle of Peleliu:


So you can see how video enhances the story.

It’s magic.

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