Death and Life in Sierra Leone is a multimedia package put together by Nicholas McClelland of TIME.com. McClelland’s work is a collection of natural sound, narration, and photographs which all focus upon a maternity hospital of Sierra Leone. The Sierra Leone has the world’s highest maternity mortality rate, and this piece follows the birthing process, suffering and death of one 26 year old woman.
Without question, the story of a woman dying in childbirth would be both tragic and powerful to audiences. However, with the use of this specific multimedia approach, McClelland was able to tell this woman’s story in a truly visceral manner and extrapolate her tragic circumstances to an entire nation.
Natural sound was mainly the shouts and hurried discussion in the hospital. While these would usually be actualities, here they were not translated and therefore were rendered incomprehensible. However, such a decision did not detract from the message of the piece. Instead, by having many voices shouting and discussing at once in a foreign tongue, the confusion and desperation of the hospital workers was underscored. The juxtaposition of these hurried voices with the still photographs that portrayed the bloody and tragic scene resulted in a piece that allowed the reader to feel present in the hospital– almost uncomfortably so. Some of the photos were rather graphic, showing blood and suffering, but none were needlessly so. In addition, the somber tone of the narrator’s voice lent well to the hopelessness of this woman’s situation and the larger tragedy of the inadequately staffed and resourced hospitals in the country.