Through the lens: Chinese lion dancing

Jia Xin, 14, was one of the performers tasked with supporting and maneuvering a section of the model lion during the Chinese New Year parade in Manhattan on Feb. 2, 2014. Photo credit Jason Lam/International Center of Photography.

Words aren’t enough to illustrate the vivid festivities of Chinese lion dancing; photographs paint the real story.

The photo story in The New York Times, “Celebrating the Chinese Lion Dance,” is a collaborative piece between writer, Andrew Boryga, and photographer, Jason Lam. Lion dancing is a Chinese tradition where celebrators don large and decorative costumes of giant lion figures to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

The crowd at the Chinese New Year parade reach out to touch the dragon  on Feb. 2, 2014 in Manhattan. Photo credit Jason Lam/International Center of Photography.
The crowd at the Chinese New Year parade reach out to touch the lion figure on Feb. 2, 2014 in Manhattan. Photo credit Jason Lam/International Center of Photography.

Lam, a Chinese American and former lion dancer, took the photos in the story at last year’s lion dancing parade. The photo story also includes short text by Boryga describing Lam’s background and the holiday. The photo story was published on Feb. 13, 2015 in time for the Chinese New Year, which is today, Feb. 19.

The story is a piece of journalism because it remains objective on the topic of Chinese lion dancing and includes a credible source in Lam. The story doesn’t feature photos that were carelessly shot or unmemorable. Lam effectively composed each picture and told a story through the photo subjects and captions. He immersed himself in the parade and took pictures that give readers the sense that they are at the event.

The Wan Chi Ming Lion Dance Group, one of the lion dancing teams, waits for their performance to start on Jan. 23, 2014. Photo credit Jason Lam/International Center of Photography.

Boryga’s short text in the story engages the audience and explains the significance of lion dancing in Chinese culture. He guides the reader through the exotic and wild Chinese celebration that is illustrated through photos in the story.

Newly finished lion costumes performing in Manhattan on Feb. 7, 2014. Photo credit Jason Lam/International Center of Photography.

When it comes to how the story uses social media to connect with readers, the piece could have included more social media sharing options. There are ways to share the article on Facebook and Twitter, but no option to share the photos in the story. For those who don’t have time to read the whole piece, it will be helpful if the article allowed audiences to handpick the photos in the story and share those specifically on social media.

What the story does well using social media is offer icons at the top that readers can click to follow the Facebook and Twitter account of the Times’ photo story section, Lens. This helps the Times promote their photo stories by having audiences follow a stream of its content on social media.

The New York Times’ Lens Facebook page. Readers of “Celebrating the
Chinese Lion Dance” can follow the Lens Facebook page through a link in the story. Photo credit The New York Times’ Lens Facebook page. Screenshot by Jimin Kim.

Thus,“Celebrating the Chinese Lion Dance” uses striking pictures and effective text to drive the story forward.

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