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'Always Go in on Your Tip-Toes': Documenting the Lives of Others

With Alex Harris and Marco Werman
November 5th, 2015
12:00 PM


Header image credit: Marco Werman.

Read a description of this discussion on our blog.

Thursday, November 5

Forum for Scholars and Publics (Old Chem 011)


Light lunch served.

Join us for a discussion with Marco Werman (T ’83), journalist and host of Public Radio International’s show, “The World,” and Alex Harris, Duke University professor and acclaimed documentary photographer. Together, the two will look back at Werman’s early work in journalism and documentary storytelling as an undergraduate student in Harris’s “American Communities” course, and explore how that experience has shaped Werman’s approach to telling other people’s stories.

Recalling his experience in Harris's class, Werman has said, "I keep my first photo [for that course] in a frame today on my desk at work. The man in the photo has his fist right in my lens. It serves as a reminder that I should always go into a story on tip-toes, never guns blazing."

Co-sponsored by, the Forum for Scholars and Publics, Duke Performances, the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts, and the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media & Democracy.

Alex Harris

Duke University

Alex Harris is a founder of The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) at Duke where he also launched DoubleTake Magazine. He is a Professor of the Practice of Public Policy and Documentary Studies at Duke. At CDS, he is the creative director of the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program. Harris has photographed extensively in the American South, New Mexico, Alaska, and Cuba, and has published and exhibited widely about these places.  His work is represented in major collections including The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, The High Museum of Art in Atlanta, and The North Carolina Museum of Art. His awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship in Photography, a Rockefeller Foundation Humanities Fellowship, and a Lyndhurst Prize. As a photographer and editor, Harris has published fifteen books including River of Traps a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in general non-fiction. His most recent book, Why We Are Here, a collaboration with evolutionary biologist E.O. Wilson, was published in 2012 by Liveright/Norton. In 2015, Harris won the Robert B. Cox award for excellence in undergraduate teaching in the social sciences at Duke.

Marco Werman

Public Radio International

I got my first job in journalism at 16 as a copy-boy at the News and Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina.  I've worked in documentary photography, print, radio and television.  My radio work started in Burkina Faso in West Africa, following a three year stint with the Peace Corps in Togo.  From Burkina Faso, I moved to London to produce the BBC World Service flagship breakfast program for Africa, "Network Africa."

In 1990, I moved back to the US, and helped start up a new public radio station in upstate New York in the Adirondacks where I reported, produced and hosted a daily two-hour news and current affairs show.  Four years later, I moved to Rome, Italy where I was the correspondent for Monitor Radio.  In 1995, WGBH and The World hired me to help begin the program.  Its mission -- to bring international news to American ears in a compelling way that would make the world more relevant to them -- scratched me where I itch.  And I've been committed to that mission ever since.

Along the way, I've won some awards (the National Federation of Community Broadcasters for an original radio drama I wrote; the Sony awards for an exposé on child labor in West African gold mines; the New York Festivals for a BBC documentary on the 1987 assassination of Burkina Faso’s president; the first annual Unity award from the Radio and Television News Director’s Association for coverage of diversity issues; and an Emmy for a Frontline documentary on Libya).  But the most important honor for me remains the emails I get from listeners thanking us for the coverage we give to often little-known stories and voices from around the globe.