Studs Terkel

Following up on the reference that Sekula made, I decided to research the work of Terkel. Although I could not find the entire works online, I managed to locate transcribed excerpts from Hard Times here, and some original recordings from all his publications here. This is work in the tradition of the Grimm brothers and Alan Lomax (whose recordings of delta blues artists are among my favourites), but Terkel gets his subjects (uncelebrated people) to relate their own stories in their own words.

Similar to the work that I produced for my last project, the interviewer has limited presence, and the interviewees are given the freedom to speak as they wish to. This is some really interesting work, both as book form and as recordings. My only qualm is that there are no visuals!! Here are some later recordings where Terkel speaks about his principle, which he puts in the following beautiful (loosely paraphrased) way – “when the Spanish Armada was sunk, it is said that Philip of Spain wept; were there no other tears? I try to find out who shed those other tears.”

I really like the idea of combining such interview (self-reflective narrative) with visuals, and even if the OCA assessors felt that my work is not engaging enough, it is a path that I will continue to pursue. The concept of people telling their own stories is one that interests me. What is important is that the people are invited to construct their own narratives, and although the producer does have the final say, in the sense that he will edit out any material that he thinks to be superfluous, we are still allowing the people their own voice, and this is what interests me the most.

Transcript excerpt from the Studs Terkel Collection at the Chicago Historical Society, showing how Terkel edited his interview transcripts:

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