#thebiggerpicture: photos + data

In late August 2015, freelance photojournalist Warren Richardson captured a photo of the grim reality of the refugee crisis. In the photo, a father passes his baby under a barbed wire fence from the Serbian border into neighboring Hungary. The photo poignantly captures the lengths Syrians are forced to go to find safety. The photo was recently named “World Press Photo of the Year,” a highly prestigious award.


In the ability to truly see, photographs such as this one transcend the two-dimensional plane to create human connection. And this is undoubtedly a critical journalistic function. But while a photo such as this one conveys the emotion of the news, it cannot necessarily convey the full story of the situation. Photos make a human connection, but by their very nature, they cannot enhance the connection with data and facts. Historically, the caption and accompanying news story gave audiences the broader perspective.

As another important means of visual communication, infographics can excel in providing data and facts. And while infographics provide rich detail and can engage audiences through interactivity, they often lack a human connection.

A recent project capitalizes on the strengths of photos and data to create a more complete storytelling experience. The Bigger Picture, a collaboration of the Centre for Innovation (Leiden University) and the World Press Photo Foundation, invites audiences to “explore the deeper meaning of what you might not see at a first glance.”

In the project, Richardson’s award winning photo from the refugee crisis is overlaid with key questions that the photo invites, but does not answer. These questions include, “How many leave their homes?” and “Where do they go?”


As the audience clicks on one of these questions, the view then zooms to the pixel level, and the photo is overlaid with an infographic of the corresponding data.


The combination of photography and data visualization provides for a more informative and engaging user experience than either visual element could provide on its own. The project is an exemplar of innovative visual storytelling that creates both a human connection and more complete information experience.


Image credit: Warren Richardson and http://thebiggerpicture.online

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