Two years ago, Washington Post reporter Theresa Vargas and photographer Michael S. Williamson hit the road. In a summer-long series of “Half a Tank: Along Recession Road” blog posts, the two drove more than 20,000 miles and visited 30 states to see for themselves how Americans were faring in the recession.
Now, Williamson is doing it again — but as a one-man band. And this time, he’s armed with an iPhone and Intersect.
Williamson generously agreed to chat with me in the wee hours before we covered the Three Mile Island vigil in Middletown, Pa. Here are just a few of his thoughts — and audio snippets — from our 45-minute conversation.
“I’m filing rather live,” Williamson said. “‘Half a Tank’ two years ago — the earliest it ever ran was the next day. But usually it was two days later. … And the hours — it was the most brutal stretch of road travel I have ever done. We worked until midnight every night, and then we filed until six in the morning.
“It was very rewarding,” Williamson said. “But it killed us. And so when I proposed going back, I said, ‘I can’t do it like that.’”
Instead, Williamson proposed to cover the entire trip — which would be accomplished throughout the year rather than in one long stretch — with his iPhone.
Using the iPhone has completely changed the way Williamson shoots and approaches this project. After he said the iPhone photos’ quality is good enough to run five columns in print, I asked if he was concerned that there’s almost an indiscernible difference in quality between a traditional DSLR camera and a camera phone.