Kate Holt’s audio slideshow insights, part 1

Kate Holt portrait

The first of four installments on British freelance photojournalist Kate Holt’s advice for planning, creating and using audio slideshows to tell compelling digital stories. This month and next month on Twitter and Facebook, Soundslides will feature a selection of Holt’s work. Keep an eye out.

When Kate Holt was 19, she heard stories about the awful maltreatment of children in Romania’s orphanages. In January 1991, she left her home in England and volunteered to help. The conditions she observed inspired her career.

She studied photojournalism, and soon was documenting some of humankind’s darkest situations — famine, poverty, war and sexual exploitation. In Albania, she reported on refugees who were flooding over the border from Kosova. In Bosnia, she uncovered sex-slave trafficking of girls from Romania, Moldova and the Ukraine. While working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, she discovered the systematic abuse of young female refugees by United Nations peacekeepers. She’s documented natal care programs in Tanzania, river blindness in Nigeria and hard rock mining in Afghanistan.

Holt’s editorial work appears in The Guardian, the BBC, the Financial Times, and Mother Jones. She has been nominated three times for the Amnesty Award for Humanitarian Reporting. Her digital storytelling has had sweeping effects on mindsets, philanthropy and public policy.

Because of their simplicity, audio slideshows are Holt’s digital storytelling form of choice. An efficiently managed project requires diligent planning.

Audio slideshow — making the plan

“The key to working successfully is to be very focused,” Holt told Soundslides in a conversation last week. (She lives in Nairobe.) “It’s knowing what you need, getting in and out of the situation, and getting into post production quickly.”

Before each job, she works out crucial details of transportation, equipment, interviews and photography locations. Each situation has its own limitations.

“In Mogadishu recently, we had only three days for a shoot,” she said. “The security constraints were enormous. We could go into the camps for only a maximum of 30 minutes before security pulled us out. We wore body armor, and it was really hot.”

When it comes to security and logistics, knowing the right people counts. Journalists are increasingly targeted by terrorists. Holt works with NGOs (non-governmental organizations) for access to difficult places.

Record audio first

Once on location, she records the audio segments of her project first. The interview content then determines the photo shoot list.

“You have to do the voice recording and the interview first because you don’t know what will be relevant,” she said.

The finalized audio slideshow often will feature only the voices of the people she’s interviewed.

“For a story about a surgeon working in Somalia, we used the surgeon’s voice to carry four minutes of images,” she said. “I interviewed him and others, and then wrote a script from what he told me. I asked him to read the script, and I put the slides to his script in a way that worked.”

Digital storytelling examples — using subject voices

Here are some more examples illustrating how Holt blended the voices of the people she was interviewing with subtitles and images.

Stay tuned for the rest of this Soundslides series featuring audio slideshow tips and examples from Kate Holt:

Part 2: Strategies for capturing context, variety and the texture of daily life.

Part 3: Holt works with NGOs and media outlets to share digital stories

Part 4: Holt teaches NGOs and victims how to document their own situations

Read more about Kate Holt.

Find Kate Holt on Facebook.

— Interview and story by Laura Read


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