Finding Innovative Ways to Tell a Story: The Challenge of a Writer
In an era where producing content and accessing information is the daily snack, finding innovative ways to tell a story and stand out from the crowd is a challenge. As a team of writers, we know how demanding this task can be and when we find people that are breaking through we love to celebrate them.
Today we are interviewing Jen Pollack Bianco, she was one of the judges of our first photo contest and she’s an award-winning travel photographer and luxury travel blogger, who is mixing in new and interesting ways mobile technology, social media, and the hospitality industry. Her niche is luxury without snobbery, with an innovative multi-media approach. Creator of My Life’s A Trip, an online multi-media diary where she shares reviews and travel experiences from around the world.
This interview is about how she started in the business and how she stays relevant. Every current and aspiring writer for any industry should take notes or if you have any suggestions, we’d love to hear your story as well.
For how long have you been working in the travel industry?
I’ve been selling travel images since 2006 and writing since 2008. Oddly, I don’t really think of myself as “working in the travel industry.” I think of myself as a lifestyle photographer who runs a luxury travel blog.
How did you decide to become a travel writer?
I didn’t. I decided to become a screenwriter, and kept hitting walls. But I’ve always been a world traveler and photographer. Once the digital world took off people started coming to me for content for their travel websites and I fell into it. It was natural to combine my passion for storytelling and travel. I was never into that heavy handed “the streets of St. Petersburg bleed history” kind of writing so the digital space feels natural to me.
What was your first paid gig and how did you get it?
It was a photograph. Spanish teachers who were self-publishing a Spanish text book asked me if they could buy an image I shot in Mexico for the cover. It was on an old website I had. I think it was 2006. It was before social media exploded.
What have you seen are your biggest challenges in this career?
I struggle with promoting myself. I always think my work should speak for itself but that’s not the reality of the job. Self-promotion is part of the job and it’s difficult to master the line between being professional and being pushy. Sometimes it’s the squeakiest wheel that gets the attention. I am not that wheel.
That is so true. What do you think makes you stand out then?
I try to keep it fun and real and a bit outside the box. I work in the luxury space, but I’m not into snobbery. I also embrace imperfection and try to enjoy what goes wrong. I don’t mind being the best in my niche.
So how do you keep updated and on top of trends?
The digital and mobile landscape is always changing. It’s difficult to stay on top of various platforms and it’s impossible to be a master of all of them. I skim several tech and travel blogs (Mashable, TechCrunch, Skift) each morning and look for items that might be of interest to me. As a general rule, I don’t invest too much time, energy or creativity into platforms that won’t work in my own blog, My Life’s a Trip.
In a world that moves fast, how do you innovate in the way you tell your stories?
That’s usually a creative choice made in the moment based on the tools I have at my disposal. I like visual story telling, but sometimes a time lapse video works better than a photo essay, or a GIF is more representative of the feeling I am trying to convey. I guess the core of what I do is try to translate feelings into visuals. Sometimes the choice is obvious, sometimes it’s simply what’s available.
We’ve seen you have implemented animated gifs in your narratives, how has this helped you tell the story?
From a photographer’s standpoint shooting stills and shooting video are very different. I’m a very good photographer, but only OK at shooting video, where the focal plane is constantly shifting. I’ve found GIFS as a fun way to liven up an experience without having to shoot video (and it saves storage space and bandwidth).
We love your travel photography, where did you learn the technique and how important is it for your stories?
My father was into photography and I was always the “girl with the camera.” I went to NYU Film School and got my masters degree in Producing from USC. I look at producing my blog like any other project and the fact is images pack a stronger punch and transcend language barriers. I always want the words to complement the photos and not the other way around. I found my eye like every photographer does– by shooting. The only way I learn anything is by doing. Then I found what works for me and my strength and have honed them.
What are your goals or resolutions for 2015? In other words, what’s next?
I’m definitely going to Iceland this year and crossing my fingers that I’ll see the Northern Lights. I’ve been told there is never any guarantee and a pro photographer I know who leads photo tours there told me he’s only seen them once, while driving to the airport.
My travel resolution is simple: to overpack less. I’m into setting attainable goals.