One of the goals of THE BIGGER PICTURE blog is to highlight stories about the ways images delivered in an online environment can describe extraordinary events or comment equally powerfully on our everyday life. Our contributors talk about collections at the Smithsonian, about images or archives that are making headlines, or about people that make, care for, and think about images on a regular basis. That’s why I wanted to mention an online, multi-media web magazine, The Soul of Athens that is published by the photojournalism students at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. The first volume of Soul of Athens launched in May 2007 and the 2010 edition appeared on June 1. Soul of Athens has been recognized internationally for its work in photojournalism, multimedia packaging, documentary and feature videos as well as overall excellence in storytelling.
The Soul of Athens explores the curiosities and universal human experiences within the Athens community, a mostly rural area of southeastern Ohio. This year there are over sixty students involved in the project. Local characters, university life, poverty, sustainable farming, fashion, religion, dance, birth, and much more are pictured by Ohio University students in the School of Visual Communication and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. The site is exclusively designed, edited, produced, and operated by students; it is one of a kind in this aspect. The site is trying a new format this year. The 2010 Soul of Athens website will be published in a series of editions. The first phase launched at 12:01am on June 1. Every two weeks additional thematic editions will be added to the site. The editions include Thrive, Experience, Passage, Shelter, and Expression. Viewers will be able to subscribe to electronic notifications each time a new edition is added. The mission of Soul of Athens is to engage and inform audiences in a unique experience with accurate and innovative, inventive story telling that explores the curiosities and universality of the Athens community. It would seem that The Smithsonian Photography Initiative has some company in the effort to use and think about the power—the soul—of images in the digital age. We’d love to hear about other projects. Let us know!
Merry Foresta is the Former Director of the Smithsonian Photography Initiative.