This American Life

Still riding the Inspiration Roller Coaster by Nigel Rumsey

The Coney Island Cyclone roller coaster. I wrote in my last post how I was being inspired by the podcasts of documentary radio producers talking about their work, as much as by the work itself. I'm still riding that particular inspiration roller coaster and I'm enjoying it. Earlier this week I listened to an episode of How Sound which underlined everything I'd been thinking about the power of documentary radio.

Alix Spiegel came up through the caldron of good radio storytelling that is This American Life; I'm sure some of you may be getting just a little tired of my banging on about This American Life but if you've listened to even one of their programmes I hope you'll understand my infatuation. In this episode of How Sound, called Love is a Battlefield, Alix talks about her interviewing technique, how she structures questions and the incredible amount of work she puts into her 'pre-interview', as she refers to it. What also astonished me was the length of the interviews, she says the average interview maybe 1.5 to 4 hours. At one point she says, "I don't think I've ever done an interview that's more than 5-6 hours"! While I was listening to the programme, and since, I've been wondering, aside from the inspiration, 'how can what I'm learning be applied to documentary photography'. I'm still thinking about that one, I've always liked the idea of accompanying images with recorded sounds, it's just such a tricky thing to present.

In a recent programme I heard a radio producer say (sorry, I can't remember who) that they wanted to create moments in radio where you make the listener turn to look at the radio in disbelief. I had at least one of those moments when listening to Love is a Battlefield. You can listen to the interview, which includes clips of 'Love is a battlefield' on the How Sound website or the original This American Life programme on their website.

Alix's latest project is Invisibilia.