Frederick Siebel's poster plunged the 1942 American public into the sea to face a young man gasping for life. The drowning sailor makes eye contact, reaches out (or is he fingering the gossiper?), and spits out water to use what might be his last breath to warn: Do not gossip, you might be leaking military intelligence to enemy spies.
This singular image weaves setting, hero, conflict, and outcome. We know where we are (the aftermath of a sunk ship), who we care about (the archetypal sailor, who represents all servicemen), and gain an insight to how this happened (SOMEONE TALKED!). It only takes a few brushstrokes to convey high-stakes emotions, stoke your adrenal system, and speed your heart rate. We leave the piece with new resolve against careless gossip.
Still images do not move, but they can send our minds on causal journeys. Narrative photographs, paintings, and magazine illustrations engage us intellectually and stir our emotions. The frozen stories this chapter is about threaten to drown us in an entire survey of the visual arts. We will resist this deluge and focus on just a few media that help us better connect data to audiences. Not all data stories are frozen, of course. Many interactives, animated films, and presentations sequence data-driven content over time. Yet, each of these build on still comparisons and can benefit from considering the singular image.