Archives for February 2013

Aaron Huey and Cowbird.com

Aaron Huey is a photojournalist that I’ve followed for several years. He originally caught my attention with images he took of a journey through the Republic of Georgia (formerly part of Russia). His images were staggering; his ability to immerse himself into different cultures was impressive. Huey’s images from Georgia aren’t easy to find on his website, but I’m including a link below (unfortunately, this takes forever to load; but it’s worth the wait):

Recently, Huey has collaborated with Jonathan Harris, the creator of Cowbird.com, to build a community multimedia storytelling program that would give Huey and people from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota a platform to aggregate text, images and audio as a communal story in a single place.

The project, much of which is posted on the National Geographic website, is funded by a grant from the John and James L. Knight Foundation.  Huey, from what I can tell, is currently a Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University.  I’m interested in this project for 3 reasons:

  1. Why would Huey, who has access to the entire world (he’s currently back in the Georgian Republic doing something) devote so much time to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation? What attracts Huey to this subject? (He’s been photographing at Pine Ridge for 7 years.)
  2. Why would Huey, the photojournalist, cede “control” over his story to his subjects? The essence of Cowbird seems to be collaborative storytelling – or what I would call story sharing. How does Huey as a photojournalist see collaborative story sharing developing?
  3. What interest does Stanford, National Geographic, and the John and James L. Knight Foundation have in this type of collaborative storytelling / story sharing?

Cowbird.com claims to a free platform for people to share stories using online tools. Cowbird’s purported mission is to “build a public library of human experience, so the knowledge and wisdom we accumulate as individuals may live on as a part of the commons.”  I contacted Cowbird to ask more about their product and the community of storytellers that they’re building.  They’ve responded with some info – I’ve got some research to do and I’ll fill you in on Cowbird.com with a subsequent post.

I’ve also emailed Aaron Huey to get his perspective, but as I mentioned he’s on the road (and for him that probably means completely off the grid) in the Georgian Republic.  I’ll keep you posted on what I learn.

Kate Holt – Interview

Kate Holt is a freelance photojournalist who has covered Bosnian refugees, the sex slave trade and human trafficking from Eastern Europe and the Congo, and conflicts in Afghanistan and Somalia. Ms. Holt reported for the BBC and The Independent Newspaper prior to establishing herself as a freelance photographer. She has been nominated 3 times for the Amnesty Aware for Humanitarian Reporting, as well as the Prix Pictet Photographic Award. Ms. Holt currently photographs for the international media, NGOs, and corporate clients and provides consulting services and media training for NGOs and governmental agencies. Ms. Holt’s website is www.kateholt.com.


Ms. Holt has incorporated various multimedia techniques into her professional work. I asked her about the market for that work product, and how incorporating audio and video with photography has affected her work.

Q1.  First, I saw somewhere that you grew up in Newfoundland (where my family originated). Can you tell me a little about your background?

Holt:  I was born in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) where my father was working as a doctor for the military and my mother was a journalist. As the civil war worsened they decided to leave – travelling first to Cape town in South africa and then on to Newfoundland.

My father had been offered a job working in Intensive care units and helping on the oil rigs. We inititally lived in ST Anthony and then moved down to St. Johns until I was 11. So yes, 6 years of my childhood was spent in Newfoundland – surrounded by a lot of open space and the sea!

Q2.  Coming from the still photography photojournalism world, how interested are you in multimedia? Are you seeing a pull from your clients for multimedia? And if so, would you characterize this as strong demand, or just some demand? Is your multimedia work primarily a personal interest or a professional “necessity”?

Holt:  I still believe firmly in the power of still photography – and think it still hasn’t a hugely important role to play in the media and as a communication tool in other areas eg internal marketting. I am actually starting to encourage a lot of my clients to start experimenting with multi media – by multi media I mean putting audio with still photogrpahy and creating short 3 – 4 minute packages. Some are showing an interest – some prefer to stick to stills.

I would say that some of the clients I work with two or three years ago were turning to film – but are now turning back to still photography and the use of multi media instead. Reasons being:

1. it is more economical
2. means they get the best of both worlds – eg a short photo film – but still able to use the photos individually
3. in some countries where internet is slower – multi media uses less bandwidth so is more accessible than films.

  

Q3.  I browsed through the Mogadishu project on your website, where you incorporate still photography and recorded audio into the final product. How did you approach the sequencing of images for this project?

Holt:  I try to tie in images with the audio – eg make the images relevant to the text.

Q4.  In Mogadishu, did you start with a collection of images and then build out the audio? Or start with audio and build up the images to support that audio? Or did you start with a blank slate and build images and audio simultaneously?

Holt: Start with a blank slate. Working in Mogadishu last July – time was very limited on the ground because of security. So we had limited material to start with! Sometimes content is never quite what you thought it would be so you have to be creative and keep an open mind.

Q5.  For your work, how beneficial is the addition of audio to your still photography?

Holt:  I think it adds hugely to the story telling process – and can be so much more powerful than film. One can say a lot more in a four minute photo film than you can in a traditional film.

 
Q6.   I also looked at your project called Fairtrade Tea, where you’re using video and some time-series still images. How did you find working with video different from working with still photography?

Holt:  Very – but I prefer stills! Although this was a fun project to work on and because of the interviews we needed, video/film was the only option.

Q7.  Did your thought processes change when you incorporated video vs. still photography?

Holt:  Yes, because you are having to work in sequences and think about interviews.

Q8.  Did you separately collect audio for this project?

Holt:  No – the audio came from the video.

Q9.  Are there any particular applications or situations that lend themselves toward multimedia (esp. in relation to still photography)?

Holt:  Yes – Soundslides is a great and very simple programme to use. Final Cut Pro — if you know how to use it — can create some lovely photo films too.

Q10. Do you have any new multimedia projects on the horizon?

Holt:  Currently working on two – one from Haiti with the Guaridan and another one about water exploration in Turkana, Kenya. Both are very different but I am using the same techniques and programmes for both.