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|| News Item: Posted 2008-01-22

Remembering Ray
Jim McNay looks back at the life of legendary storyteller Ray Farkas.

By Jim McNay

Photo by

Ray Farkas
Ray Farkas, one of the visionaries of video storytelling passed away recently.

Known more as a producer than photographer, Ray's legend is in large part due to the "Farkas look" of his video stories. After placing wireless mics on his subjects, he made sure the camera was far away from them and often out of sight. Then he would present a question and withdraw so the subjects could have an ordinary conversation as they answered the question Ray offered. People just went about being themselves with the intimidating camera out of the way.

The results were fascinating. It was some of the best storytelling on television. readers will appreciate his Diamond Life story about the Class A Bakersfield Dodgers. But equally important are his stories titled Nashville and Marriage License Bureau. With the camera at a distance we get to know Ray's characters. (See links below.)

And Interviews 50 cents is already a classic in the world of video that seems to be exploding every day. With NPR's Alex Chadwick sitting behind a table at Washington's Union Station and other locations, Ray's backed off camera recorded whatever people wanted to say about themselves. Often subjects asked who got the 50 cents. Ray loved it when people asked this question. His answer was to tell their story, and then they'd see.

But if all this was taken away and if the only story he'd ever done was his own story, called, It Ain't Television, It's Brain Surgery Ray's contribution to and reputation with other people on the planet would be significant.

In 2000 Ray began to show signs of having Parkinson's disease. As his shaking grew worse, he investigated treatment possibilities. Eventually he discovered deep brain stimulation surgery. Since the patient is conscious throughout the lengthy procedure, Ray recognized the story possibilities with himself as the guide on this medical journey. He had a team set up cameras, took over as host, told jokes throughout the long operation. See It Ain't Television... It's Brain Surgery:

Ray's manner defused any reservations viewers might have had about watching something this invasive. The story helped spread the word about Parkinson's, brought this new procedure to public light by it's appearance on Nightline and made Ray an advocate for the disorder.

Ray's stories appeared on all the major television networks and cable outlets. He won Emmys, started his own company called Off Center Productions and taught at the television news video conference in Norman, OK.

Most of all Ray influenced the creators of excellent storytelling video. Anyone new to multimedia and video can fast forward their skills by looking at his work. Steal everything you can. Ray will be pleased.

The beauty of the Web is that great work does not have to go away when the TV or computer is switched off. Examples of Ray's stories can be seen on various Web locations including his own site and Media Storm

Jim McNay teaches and writes about photojournalism in California-while fantasizing about running a charter fishing business in Key West.

Photographers, particularly those in school or seeking to break into the photojournalism, are welcome to send ideas for future columns to Jim McNay at

Questions about getting started in photojournalism that might be answered in future columns are also welcome.

Related Links:
McNay's member page
It Ain't Television... It's Brain Surgery

Contents copyright 2021, Do not republish without permission.
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