Liz O. Baylen’s Audio Slideshow “Waiting for death” Sets the Precedent for Visual Journalism

PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN
PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN

Edwin Shneidman was waiting for death and Liz O. Baylen made sure we knew, in her deeply moving audio slideshow titled “Waiting for death” for the Los Angeles Times.

PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN
PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN

In order for an audio slideshow to be successful, as with any form of journalism, hooking the reader initially is imperative. The creator must be conscious of not solely the photo and not solely the words, but how each compliment the other in their presentation. Baylen does this successfully with Shneidman’s opening statements –

* Heavy breathing *

“I was saddened today by something you two could not have known and for a moment, startled, at the deterioration of the statue.

I hadn’t seen it in months, and all of a sudden, it’s falling apart. And it’s a paradigm of me.”

PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN
PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN

Baylen accompanies these statements with pictures of what Shneidman refers to – the mossy statue, its decaying detail, his pale, wrinkled face – which all adequately capture the sadness in his voice. It makes the audience listen and the images help them to understand his situation. 

PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN
PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN

What made this piece particularly compelling was how Baylen aligned the slowness of his speech with the slow rotation of photos and their simplistic composition. While Shneidman reflects on when he was rushed to the ER, Baylen displays a photo of a blender and toaster as Shneidman states, “It was a perfect time to die.” This presented a powerful dichotomy between the simplicity of the photo and the weighty content of the interview.

This theme carried through the slideshow, many of Baylen’s photos were not of Shneidman, but of the contents in his house – his kitchen table, an outlet, outside chairs – items to represent the detachment he feels to them and to living. 

Baylen ends on Shneidman’s quote, “It’s as simple as that” an ironic statement which encapsulates the irony of the piece. Death is not simple, nor is the conscious act of waiting to no longer live. This statement alone drives the piece home. Baylen ends with a portrait of Shneidman, reminding the reader of the man behind the story. 

PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN
PHOTO CREDIT: LIZ O. BAYLEN
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