Tag Archives: Time Storm

Flooded, Uprooted, Burned: The Tracks of Sandy on the Shore

After TIME commissioned me, along with four other photographers, to capture Hurricane Sandy using Instagram, I and many of my colleagues felt a deep personal need to go back and document the aftermath. I’ve covered disasters in other parts of our country, but this is my hometown, and Sandy was a storm of historical significance. I’ve often found that there is great power in telling difficult stories in a beautiful way. Interest in any given story wanes so quickly, yet it’s only through taking the time to go deeper that we get to a place of real understanding. I had to return to this story, and I wanted try to comprehend the scale of this storm. The only way for me to capture Sandy’s destructive fury was from above.

Stephen Wilkes for TIME

Storm surges over power the coastal areas and flood the streets during low tide in Milford, CT.

On the Sunday after Sandy made landfall, I decided to rent a helicopter and fly over some of the most devastated areas, including the New Jersey shore, Breezy Point and Far Rockaway. It was a beautiful day to fly, but unfortunately that beauty quickly eroded into shock as we began to get close to the coasts. It was everything I’d heard about, but it was difficult to believe what I was actually seeing. Once we got above the shoreline, I really started to understand the scale of the destruction. The expanse of land it ruined, the totality of the devastation — it was like a giant mallet had swung in circles around the area. It was mind numbing.

When I got home that night, the images still in my mind made it impossible to sleep. Through various points of this storm, it felt like we were all living through a science fiction movie. Seeing these devastated towns from above showed the cold reality of this storm’s severity.

From above, I realized how close particular neighborhoods were to bays or oceans. Sometimes, it was a matter of two blocks, and it’s a proximity not immediately apparent when you’re on the ground. In Breezy Point, for example, I knew that more than 80 homes had burned down in a fire, but nothing could have prepared me for what I actually saw. The blackened and charred blocks of homes viewed as a giant physical scar across the landscape. Seeing how much land was affected and yet how many homes were saved, made me think of the firefighters and how hard they must have worked just to contain this fire.

In flying over Staten Island, I was really struck by the marina, and how the boats were physically lifted from the pier and tossed together. It looked like a child’s game—huge, 40-ft. boats being thrown around like toys. We then flew over Oakwood, where I saw a house that had been lifted and dragged through a field of cattails; its path clearly visible days later, having left a trail of destruction through the cattails.

Sandy was a warning shot. I’ve had a unique view of what’s happened on a physical level. But the emotional toll has yet to be measured. It’s my hope that these images serve as a wakeup call — whether that call is about global warming, infrastructure, or just the recognition that the world is changing, it’s a reminder that we need to take special care of our fragile world.


Stephen Wilkes is a fine-art and commercial photographer based in New York. Wilkes was awarded the Photo District News Award of Excellence in 2011 and 2012.

Wilkes’ work will be part of Art for Sandy, a fundraising initiative to support Sandy relief that’s being hosted by 20×200 and TIME.



Game Changer: MediaStorm Launches Pay-Per-Story Video Player

MediaStorm broke new ground in digital publishing on Tuesday with the launch of a pay-per-story video player, one of the industry’s most exciting attempts to capitalize on the strength of multimedia productions. Now in its seventh year, the Brooklyn-based multimedia studio has developed an industry-wide reputation for producing strong online documentary multimedia. Before the launch of their new player, which was two years in the making, all content on their site was available free of charge. Now users have to pay $1.99 to watch full stories. As has been MediaStorm’s tradition, half of all revenue generated is shared with the photographers whose work is featured.

Users can watch the trailer for free, but then are prompted to pay to watch the full video. Registration and payment takes about two minutes to complete. “Everyone was initially against it,” says Brian Storm, MediaStorm’s founder and executive producer, of the staff’s resistance to charge for content. “Everyone wants people to see their work, but the reality is if a million people watch our story, it costs a ton of money…we have got to diversify our revenue and say, ‘This is worth your money.’”

By charging for its videos, MediaStorm is sending a message to its viewers that their content is worth more than just their time. Storm’s ultimate goal in launching the player is to advance the way the organization is telling stories—to do more of it, and do it better.

More importantly, Storm feels strongly that this player could be an integral part of how visual journalism is viewed and shared on the Web. MediaStorm has already licensed the player to the Guggenheim Museum and NGOs, and has further plans to make it available to others.

“If we figure this out and share it with others, that’s what success looks like,” Storm says of the player. “Helping the industry get better at what we do.”

Beyond that, the success of the player stands to have big implications for the cadre of visual journalists who could use it to get their stories out there. “That’s Yahtzee. That’s the Holy Grail. This is one step in the process of building that solution,” Storm says.

What it really comes down to for Storm is promoting visual journalism – regardless of whether that originates in or outside of the walls of his company. “The playback of our content is central to who we are, so to take ownership of that and innovate around it was a critical move,” Storm said. MediaStorm Developer Shameel Arafin and Interactive Designer Tim Klimowicz crafted a player that allows full control for branding and video playlists among other functions.

The coding that MediaStorm used to build the player allows the company incredible control – like knowing where their content is being used and viewed, and retaining the ability to turn it off remotely if the player is being misused.

The launch of the player coincides with the publication of two gripping stories in which award-winning photographers Phillip Toledano and Maggie Steber documented the death of one of their parents.

“We’ve been able to reach millions of viewers by distributing our stories for free,” Storm said. “But the reality is, no company or industry can sustain itself for long without producing a product for which people are willing to pay. Our industry is in need of a sustainable business model that will allow us to continue to report and produce compelling stories.”

Ultimately, Storm’s goal is that people will continue to log in, watch the story and learn.

Brian Storm is the founder and executive producer of MediaStorm.