Women of St Andrews: Kate Holt and the stories behind her photographs

Here at MUSA we are delighted to welcome on board a new team of volunteer bloggers. May we introduce Selena Putri, who for this month’s theme ‘Women of St Andrews’, has written about and interviewed the fascinating photojournalist and St Andrews alumna, Kate Holt.

Kate Holt’s photographs tell the true story of life in the conflict-ridden pockets of the globe. Her career in photojournalism has seeds in the year 1992, right before she began her studies in the University of St Andrews. In contacting Kate Holt, I managed to find out more about the significance of those early years and her university experience.

Kate on assignment

What lessons or memories from your academic and personal life in St Andrews have helped or remained with you in your photojournalist career?

 Before I started at St Andrews in September 1992 I had spent a year working in an orphanage for disabled children in Romania. During my time at St Andrews I fundraised for this charity and was amazed by the overwhelming support I received from fellow students and teachers at the University. It also surprised me how generous people could be. When doing fund raising activities I always showed photographs of the children I worked with. I realised that people liked being inspired to help others and this was one thing that prompted me to become a photo journalist – I realised the power of photographs to inspire positive social change.


In three words, how would you describe your job?


 What advice do you have to give to students at St Andrews considering a career in photojournalism?

Never give up and understand what motivates you.

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Thus, her experiences with the Romanian orphanage steered her interests towards human rights issues and drove her to carve a path for herself where she could make a real difference. Between 1992 and 1996, Holt achieved her Master of Arts degree in History at St Andrews. In her last academic year, she was awarded a prize for her exceptional services with Romanian orphanages. After leaving university, Holt nurtured her interest in humanitarian issues and journalism. She joined BBC’s News and Current Affairs department, and then further pursued studies in photojournalism at the London College of Printing.

Great success has followed in Holt’s photojournalism career. She has been nominated three times for Amnesty Award for Humanitarian reporting, has had a plethora of exhibitions of her photographs held all over the globe from London to New York, Kyrgyzstan, and Nairobi. Her documentation and significant findings of sexual abuse by UN peace keepers led to Kofi Annan (the UN Secretary General of the time) announcing the “Zero Tolerance” policy to sexual exploitation within the UN, and discovery of sexual harassment by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Rudd Lubbers, led to his resignation.


In the last 15 years, she has worked all around Africa and Afghanistan, and her photographs have been used by several international NGOs, UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNHCR Care International, Jhpiego, the International Red Cross, and OXFAM. Her work regularly appears in The Guardian, The BBC, The Mail, and she has had work published in The Independent, The Times, The Observer, The Telegraph, and The Financial Times. Her current focus is to train and build “the capacity of others to tell their own stories”.


Holt captures lives in distant worlds in her photography, which leaves a great visual and emotional impact on her audiences, and highlights the need to address urgent problems by confronting the public with the picture. Considering this month’s theme is Women of St Andrews, I believe Holt has demonstrated more than sufficient reason to be celebrated and hailed for her achievements as a photojournalist, a global citizen, and last but not least, a woman of St Andrews.


More photographs by Kate Holt can be found on the Guardian website: https://www.theguardian.com/profile/kate-holt.

Kate Holt’s website: http://kateholt.com/

By Selena Putri


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