I am very pleased to share with you the cover for my new book, The Telling Image: Shapes of Changing Times. This book has been ten years in the making. As many of my friends can attest, these ideas have been swirling with me since my years as a documentary filmmaker for NBC News. During my travels, I was trained to look for the telling image—a picture that gives the essence of the story. In covering countries in times of tension and transition, I had to look through other people’s eyes to learn how they saw the world. I filmed in Abu Dhabi before the United Arab Emirates were unified, in Cuba ten years after their revolution, in Northern Ireland when their religious conflict burst into urban warfare, and in Liberia covering its social split.
While history gives us versions of a story, a telling image has the power to tap a deeper understanding. I practiced seeing with new eyes, open to take in the unfamiliar and to discover clues to another culture’s worldview. Dropping into a foreign country and trying to understand it enough to present its various factions, historic background, and current controversy was daunting and humbling. I knew I needed to lasso the topics at play, and I knew I would never know everything. One approach I took was to step back and look at the situation with the largest lens, seeing all sides, noticing the geography that influenced the culture’s way of living, and learning the historic background. I had to find an image that could relay the issues and emotions, the culture and landscape, in a way that could convey more than words can explain.
Searching for the telling image of a story, I found one, hiding in plain sight. It was shape itself. Once I looked for shape, I saw it everywhere—in shelters, social systems, and sacred sites. From indigenous cultures to modern societies, our answers to survival, social bonding, and sacred symbols differ vastly. Yet the blueprint for each culture became clear when I looked for shape.
Now you can join in my journey. I extend my thanks to my friends, colleagues, and supporters who have been there with me along the way. Without you, this book wouldn't be possible.
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