Home / In the Spotlight / Dying to Tell the Story – Is a picture worth dying for?


In a world inundated with selfies and social media, our cameras are practically extensions of our fingers. But is a picture worth dying for? Will capturing a moment in time help bring healing to global masses, or do the images only bring pain?

Should the study of the impact of images be a part of diversity education? ‘Dying to Tell the Story’ is a powerful film that addresses these issues and challenges viewers to see the pros and cons of photo journalism. It’s a useful tool for teaching cultural diversity.

Dying to Tell the Story

‘Dying to Tell the Story’ is about journalist Dan Eldon. This 22-year-old photographer was killed in Somalia in 1993. In trying to understand both his life and his death, Dan’s sister Amy traveled to Somalia and other places he visited. She interviewed journalists and photographers like Martin Bell and Christiane Amanpour who were taking the same kind of risks that her brother had taken. The resulting film explains why journalists’ coverage of international conflicts is so crucial that reporters would risk their lives to do it.

The film is graphic, and it’s very thought-provoking. While it’s easy to find inspiration and admiration for soldiers sacrificing their lives in combat, an individual in a crisis area with a camera around his or her neck might not garner the same respect. But why? Photojournalists, too, are risking their lives on a regular basis. These intrepid souls do this to bring global awareness of devastating situations. And this type of diversity education, critical not only for students but even more for adults, comes at a cost.

The Impact and Ethics of Photo Journalism

There is a steep price to pay when one dedicates one’s life to highlighting the atrocities inflicted on humanity by other humans. Day after day, photographers must wake up and put themselves into the heart of despair and violence. Starving people, disease-ridden masses, wounded and abandoned children…the list goes on and on.

How does this affect photographers? Does the lens bring them closer to the horror? Or does it distance them so they don’t really feel the emotional pain that comes along with intense suffering? When is it time to put the camera aside?

These are all issues addressed in the film.

Bringing to the Classroom

The free curriculum produced by Journeys in Film to accompany ‘Dying to Tell the Story’ is similar to Journeys in Film’s other curriculum offerings in covering a broad range of subjects and aligning with Common Core standards. Students don’t just sit in a dark room passively watching a film. Teachers teach global diversity by using the film as a starting point for writing assignments, research activities, art projects, and group interaction as students delve deep into issues brought up by the film.

Lessons in the curriculum as are follows:

* Lesson 1 (English Language Arts, Visual Literacy)
Characterizing a Legacy

* Lesson 2 (Visual Arts)
Making an Illustrated Journal

* Lesson 3 (Career Studies)
Photojournalism as a Career

* Lesson 4 (World History)
Somalia: A Case Study

* Lesson 5 (World History)
Bosnia: A Case Study

* Lesson 6 (Economics)
A Hungry Planet

* Lesson 7 (Social Studies, Health, Psychology)
What is PTSD?

* Lesson 8 (Social Studies, Photography)
Photographs That Changed History

This film offers insight and perspective into complex and pressing contemporary problems. It clearly demonstrates that photography, photo journalism, and film are powerful tools for teaching global diversity. They have literally changed the course of history. This is why adventurous, caring souls, following in the footsteps of Dan Eldon, believe it’s worth dying to tell the story.

To download a free copy of this curriculum, go to the Journeys in Film website at http://journeysinfilm.org/download/dying-to-tell-the-story/.