Matt Johnston on Via PanAm by Kadir Van Lohuizen

The images above are iPad screen grabs.

When Martin got in touch with a few questions recently, I mentioned one of the most exciting digital books I had seen was Kadir Van Lohuizen's 'Via PanAm'. I imagine many readers will be familiar with this app but for those who are not, here is just a brief overview.

The tag line 'A 40 week journey exploring migration in the Americas' does a pretty good job at  explaining the project but to further borrow the given text;
Why do people migrate? Where to and for what reasons? What is the fate of the different indigenous populations in the Americas? In Via PanAm, Kadir van Lohuizen investigates the roots of migration in the Americas, a phenomenon which is as old as humanity but is increasingly portrayed as a new threat to the Western world.

It's not easy to describe or relate this app to any others I have seen. It has quite clearly been built around the project and not the other way round. What results from this uninhibited production is an experience rather than a viewing; we are left to make our own journey with Kadir. While we can be guided by date or location there is very much a sense that this interface is a portal to a vast amount of non-linear material rather than a highly structured or rigid narrative.

When you pair this interface with huge depth in content; video, music, photography, maps and so on, you might find yourself getting lost every now and again but I enjoyed this. Not knowing what you would find next or where to find that certain image again is all part of the journey and part of the exploration. It is also worth mentioning here that we can retrospectively follow Kadir on his own journey via his blog entries which appear throughout the project. While photojournalists and media outlets have often been criticized for putting themselves centre stage, here it a supportive feature running through, acting as an anchor and certainly taking no attention away from the project’s focus. 

Via PanAm presents a range of stories, arguments and issues themed under ‘migration’ but to it’s credit could not be accused of trying to force opinion or agenda. To think that this is only one element of a multi platform project including an exhibition, website and soon-to-be book makes it even more interesting, but until said book is released, this is certainly the richest platform on which to view the project. 

I'll make no bones about the fact that I think Paradox are producing some of the most exciting and innovative projects we are able to consume. Because of this I recently had a long chat with Bas Vroege (director) that I have recorded and will publish this coming term, when it is online I shall give you a shout Martin as it might be of interest to The Digital Photobook.

*It is worth noting that I am writing this after the project itself had finished, during the original 40 week journey you could follow day by day as content was uploaded.

App compatible with iPad only.

Price: $5.99

Links: iTunes and viapanam.org

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