Keith Jenkins: More Than Just the “Photo Guy”

By Kate Schroeder


Keith Jenkins

For most of his career, NPR’s Senior Supervising Producer for Multimedia, Keith Jenkins, has always been known as the “photo guy”.  His resume is extensive. He is acclaimed for his photography and is a Pulitzer Prize winner for his work on a series on the Walter Reed Army Medical Center while working for The Washington Post.

Even with such an influence on the world of photography, if Jenkins were to choose between telling a story with audio or with a photo, he would choose audio.

“[Audio] is where we all come from,” Jenkins said. “Story telling is a part of our DNA.”

Story telling in its most raw form is what Jenkins focused on for 80 minutes during his presentation at the Schuneman Symposium on Photojournalism and New Media on Tuesday, Feb. 26.

Instead of lecturing, Jenkins invited his audience to join him in a “listening party” where he presented multiple pieces of audio and multimedia stories. He showed when pairing audio with a visual image, it opens up the world around the subject of the story instead of just a visual alone. Or as he described, “It’s about developing a visual identity using audio.”

Some may call this pairing of audio with visuals ‘multimedia’ or ‘new media’. To Jenkins, those are two phrases he despises. According to Jenkins, this kind of story telling has always been around as he showed in the pairing of audio clips and visual images taken by Susan Marcellus, a 20th Century photojournalist.

“This isn’t new. This is journalism,” Jenkins said.  “This is an effort to give us the world around the subject.”

If there is one thing that could be taken away from Jenkins presentation, was his emphasis bringing multiple media together to allow the audience to enter the world surrounding the subject.

“Giving a piece of the environment is not good enough anymore,” Jenkins said. “If there is one thing we can bring into the world its context. It is the envelope that surrounds the story.”