Sound Portraits

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  • Location: Brooklyn, NY

Sound Portraits Productions was the predecessor to the national oral-history project, StoryCorps. While Sound Portraits Productions is no longer an active organization, we would like to share with you the history of this award winning not-for-profit organization and encourage you to learn more about the work of StoryCorps.

Sound Portraits Productions was first established as a not-for-profit 501(c)3 corporation in 1994 by MacArthur Fellow David Isay. Sound Portraits Productions was an independent production company dedicated to telling stories that bring neglected American voices to a national audience. Whether on the radio, in print, or on the Web, Sound Portraits was committed to producing innovative works of lasting educational, cultural, and artistic value.

Sound Portraits' radio documentaries (broadcast on NPR's All Things Considered and Weekend Edition) are audio profiles of men and women surviving in the margins. Told with care and dignity, the work depicts the lives of Americans living in communities often neglected or misunderstood. Sound Portraits frequently collaborates with people living in these hard-to-access corners of America, giving them tape recorders and microphones and helping them tell their own stories.

Sound Portraits is known not just for its cutting-edge radio documentaries but also for its innovative approaches to disseminating ideas, sparking discussion, and broadening the national debate on such issues as poverty, juvenile justice, prison, and race. After broadcast, their documentaries live on through extensive education outreach in classrooms across the country. In 1997, Sound Portraits was awarded funding from the MacArthur Foundation to bring the documentary Ghetto Life 101 into thousands of classrooms in collaboration with the national education outreach organization Facing History and Ourselves. This was just the beginning of an effort to make Sound Portraits work available as a learning tool, a mission that has grown with the company.

E.B. White once wrote that public radio has a special duty: "To arouse our dreams, satisfy our hunger for beauty, take us on journeys… and address the ideal of excellence and not the idea of acceptability." Sound Portraits is committed to making that vision a reality.



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This is an audio portrait of one of the final vestiges of the Bowery, New York's notorious skid row.

Bought by KUT, PRX Remix, KUT, Remix Radio, WYBC and more

  • Added: Sep 28, 2004
  • Length: 36:19
  • Purchases: 10
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"Holding On," hosted by National Public Radio's Susan Stamberg, contanins the 'best of' David Isay's Peabody Award-winning NPR series profiling dre...

Bought by Remix Radio

  • Added: Sep 28, 2004
  • Length: 01:13:28
  • Purchases: 1
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Witness to an Execution tells the stories of the men and women involved with the execution of deathrow inmates at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, Tex...

Bought by Marfa Public Radio, PRX Remix, KMUZ, HowSound, KFAI Minneapolis and more

  • Added: Sep 28, 2004
  • Length: 22:19
  • Purchases: 9
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The Execution Tapes is an hour-long public radio special hosted by Ray Suarez featuring excerpts of recordings made in Georgia's death house during...

Bought by Remix Radio and KXOT Public Radio

  • Added: Sep 28, 2004
  • Length: 53:40
  • Purchases: 2
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LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman's exploration of the murder of Eric Morse, a five-year-old who was pushed to his death from a 14th-floor window by tw...

Bought by KUT, KUT, KUT, Remix Radio, and KUER

  • Added: Jun 09, 2004
  • Length: 40:14
  • Purchases: 5
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The audio diaries of LeAlan Jones and Lloyd Newman, two young boys living in one of the most notorious public housing projects in America.

Bought by HowSound, KFAI Minneapolis, SALTcast Podcast, Remix Radio, KUER and more

  • Added: Jun 09, 2004
  • Length: 31:06
  • Purchases: 8