The BBC’s Picture Editor on the Magic of Still Photography

Those of you who’ve been reading the Soundslides blog posts and tweets for a while realize we refer to many audio slideshows posted by the BBC. A blog written by the BBC’s picture editor, Phil Coomes, is a great place to get an editor’s take on how to capture compelling stories in photos and audio. Here are a couple of interesting excerpts from Coomes about the value of still photography in audio slideshows:

Studying a split second

“Working for a broadcaster often means answering the question why don’t you shoot it in video? Well I’d guess most of you reading this are at least interested in the still image and quite possibly keen photographers so maybe you get it already.

The still image is just that, still. It’s not the real world but a flat representation and as such can open up a new world that allows us to study a split second in a way that the moving world, or image, doesn’t. In an earlier post I wrote about the truth of a photograph and one of my readers DanSF4fun  commented that a ‘map is not the territory’ just as a picture is not the thing pictured.”

— in “Shooting an Audio Slideshow” published on July 15, 2009

Image as starting point

In this post detailing weird situations in which politicians were caught on camera, Coomes writes:

“Photographs never lie, or do they? Who can say that a split second of light passing through the shutter of a camera is capable of capturing the real world, the truth? A world that has three dimensions; sound, smell, touch, everything the camera strips away…”


“… the power of a photograph lies as much in the way the viewer interprets the image, as it does the photographers standpoint, not to mention the subject itself. The image is just a starting point.”

—In “Truth or Lie” published on May 6, 2009

Coomes also comments on current BBC projects, on the stories behind certain photos he likes, and on cool photography exhibits happening around the world. Check out his other posts.

— Laura Read


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