Long Story Short


  • Natalie Bookchin


Long Story Short is a composite group interview that takes form variously as a film, an installation, and an online interactive web documentary drawn from and linked to an archive of video diaries made by 75 interviewees who reflect on poverty in America – causes, challenges, misperceptions, and solutions. Multiple frames of videos sit side by side – creating a new form of social cinema. Voices are woven together to align and intersect, suggesting that for every speaker there could be numerous others, and that many of poverty’s narratives are fundamentally shared, as are the psychological states it can produce.

Video diaries were made using webcams and laptops – the tools of amateur online video and some of the same technologies – high tech and digital – that ushered in hardships for low-skilled workers and their families in the first place, leading to a shrinking demand and lower wages for unskilled labor. The video diaries – inserted within the vernacular of social media – bare the markings of that genre: its direct address, intimacy, informality, and faces illuminated by the screen. The potential to travel across digital networks and platforms is written on their surface. While one of the potentially productive effects of networked culture has been a shift away from a focus on one voice to many, it has also produced a class of overvisible and a class of unseen – those whose data is not worth much. Long Story Short creates a missing archive, jarring expectations and making visible the limits of who we typically find speaking to us on our screens. It responds to our current moment of increasing and dramatic economic inequality, and explores how depictions of poverty might benefit from, as well as reflect on, current modes of digital and image mobility, dissemination, and display. It explores lives mostly not seen, and not often represented in public, especially not in digital form, and not on our screens. It proposes a more social media.