Reflecting & Projecting: Vlogging & its Enduring Power for Humanitarian Storytellers

Arete
5 min readJun 14, 2023
Arete photographer Nafkot takes a photograph of herself.

Vlogging has emerged as a highly influential form of content creation. As digital sharing platforms have come and gone, innovative formats have come in and out of vogue. But vlogging has endured and appears to be a permanent fixture in the shifting world of media formats. Having played a key role in the democratisation of media, opening the lines of communication between a diverse range of content creators and different audiences, vlogging has the power to create online communities and effect change.

Characterised by a first-person perspective and direct address, vlogging simulates a personal connection between creator and viewer. Typically, without much overt editing, vlogging provides a sense of authenticity and adopts a conversational tone, allowing viewers to witness the vlogger’s genuine reactions and experiences. In a world in which high-quality editing tools, visual effects and AI are easily accessible, it speaks to our hunger for authenticity that such a stripped-back and honest format has retained its significance. As human beings, we are naturally drawn to stories and personal narratives, and vlogging provides an intimate platform for sharing those stories in a compelling and accessible manner. The enduring power of the vlog lies in its ability to captivate and engage audiences on a deeply personal level. Vlogs offer a genuine glimpse into the lives of storytellers; fostering a sense of connection and relatability.

Saiyna and Naveed on assignment for Arete on behalf of British Asian

Reflecting

When one thinks of vlogging, YouTube stars may spring to mind, but the impact of vlogging extends far beyond entertainment, and has touched just about every industry. Vlogs have proven to be a powerful tool for humanitarian storytellers, whether they’re videographers by trade, photographers, journalists, or other creators — enabling them to document crucial issues and professional philosophies while also holding intense personal significance. Vlogging encourages content creators to reflect on their experiences as they delve into their emotions and analyse their actions. This process of self-reflection is not only personally enriching but can also assist in developing a deeper understanding of the complex challenges they may encounter in the field.

Vlogging can also hold a therapeutic quality. It can be an antidote to some of the emotional rigours of working in the humanitarian context. The sounding board offered by a camera lens turned on ourselves provides a space for free thought, self-expression, and emotional release. One-on-one interaction with the camera invites vloggers to fill the silence with spontaneous thought, encouraging ideas and feelings to be unearthed and developed. This can help storytellers make sense of their work and find solace in shared experience, even if the vlog never finds its way to a public platform.

Creators often report moments of epiphany or self-discovery when working in the field. We’re all familiar with the feeling of having a break-through and rushing for a pen and paper to write it down, and vlogging can provide a rawer, more true-to-life record of such moments — helping storytellers to learn about themselves just as much as they learn about the world around them.

Arete videographer Simpa Samson and photographer Damilola Onafuwa, on assignment on behalf of the World Food Programme.

Projecting

One of the strengths of vlogs is their ability to provide viewers with a direct and unfiltered window into the vlogger’s world. Videos offer an intuitive and immersive experience when compared to written blogs, enabling viewers to see and hear directly from someone else’s perspective — projecting that perspective out into the wider world.

For humanitarian content creators, whatever the target audience, or nature of the assignment, vlogs are a powerful means of bridging gaps of understanding.

With much of the population of more economically developed countries living extremely sedentary lifestyles, many people experience the world through video content. Huge distances between people, not only geographical but also in terms of wealth, culture, and ideology, mean that bridging such gulfs with new ideas and documented experiences is important work. Vlogging stands out as a means for this, as its uniquely intimate quality has the power to nurture empathy and understanding. The intimate connection between viewer and creator prompts the audience to reflect on their own experiences in a way that can lead to meaningful action in support of positive change. A situation can be experienced vicariously by the viewer, cutting through the distance, and making the subject matter more immediate. This connection stimulates a deep level of resonance and a sense of community. Vlogs can also be used to keep remote team members informed, helping them to understand the process or situation on the ground in a more profound way that encourages them to buy into a team ethos and values.

Karel on assignment for Arete on behalf of UNICEF.

A Collective Craft

Sharing experiences and insights through vlogs creates a sense of camaraderie within the industry. Vlogging can be a platform for both aspiring and seasoned professionals to learn from one another, fostering a guild of values-driven creators that collectively elevate the quality of content.

Humanitarian storytellers hold privileged positions. While working in the field can be incredibly challenging, many people would do anything to use their creativity and skill to have a tangible impact on the world, especially in the face of increasing natural disasters, emergencies, and inequalities. Vlogging is a great way to share with others and inspire them to develop their own talents and put them to good use.

Platforms are saturated with ill-intentioned content that prioritises personal gain over the well-being of others. Talented, ethical humanitarian creators have an opportunity to represent the values of the profession — proving that storytelling can be done differently. By staying authentic, humanitarian vloggers can provide an alternative narrative, one that is compassionate, impactful, and focused on making a positive difference in the world. In a jam-packed media landscape, where content creators vie for 30 seconds of attention, it is the heartfelt and passionate approach that resonates with audiences. When content comes from the heart, it is more likely to inspire, educate, and move.

So, why not give it a go? You may not even realise the extent of what you have to say until you start filming. Simply setting up a tripod, having a chat, and jotting down some notes can unlock a wealth of thoughts and ideas. By giving voice to your experiences and perspectives, you may uncover something that resonates deeply with others.

Please feel free to email us your vlogs for us to showcase on the Arete Gazette!

info@aretestories.com title: Vlog Submission

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Arete

Arete is the expert storytelling and training agency for NGOs, UN bodies and foundations.