Dozens of students and photojournalists descended upon Laurel County, Ky., in October for the ninth Picture Kentucky workshop. Citizens opened up their lives for four days while students documented the community. This is their story.
Eastern Kentucky, and Appalachia in general, is often the target of unwanted media attention. Media companies large and small have been derided for plucking in the most unusual, poor and in some cases drug-addled and criminal residents of this part of the country and placing a spotlight on them for the world to make broad generalizations.
In April, I traveled with a writer from Rivals.com to profile the life of Jacob Hyde, the first member of the University of Kentucky's class of 2013 recruits. Jacob's story and his community's love for him can be found in any small town in America.
Two dozen students and award-winning photojournalists spend five days telling the story of the people of Jackson, Ky. -- a Breathitt County community 90 miles southeast of Lexington. The workshop is held each fall by the Kentucky Kernel, the independent student newspaper of the University of Kentucky.
The workshops staffers and I spent the week following the students and having a little fun in the process. I always look forward to Picture Kentucky because it allows me to surround myself with inspiring photographers and help students discover a path in documentary photography.
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Picture: A student at the West End School studies in his room. By Derek Poore
UPDATE, Feb. 9, 2011: This piece won Best Multimedia in the 2010 Pictures of the Year Competition held by the Kentucky News Photographers Association.
In March and April 2010 I produced a video story for The (Louisville, Ky.) Courier-Journal on a small boarding school called the West End School. Video was shot on four separate days. All that shooting generated a first cut that was nearly five minutes long.
Needless to say there was some repetition in the interviews and the cutaways and b-roll weren't always necessary. But with critiques from Bob Sacha, a former producer at MediaStorm, and David Stephenson at the University of Kentucky, I managed to trim it down to three minutes. The pace is quicker, there are more visuals and interview voice overs breathe a bit better.
That's not to suggest it wasn't hard. All that cutting. Storytelling, especially in journalism, is most effective when the audience is entertained and educated all at the same time. Mark Twain supposedly said "if I see an adjective, I kill it." Editing video can be similar. "I feel like great films show, don't tell," Sacha told me.
The best print journalists visualize their stories before they do any reporting. This helps them assemble a narrative after interview subjects and the end result is a story, not an article.
Removing that one greatly-composed piece of b-roll to quicken the pace of a transition or cutting a wordy 15-second explanation from an interview session to a snappier five-second sound bite may be tough, but ultimately will help the audience enjoy and understand your piece.
Say hello to Hands Up Visuals.
Friend and colleague Brad Luttrell has launched Hands Up Visuals, a wedding media agency with services in Louisville, Nashville and Memphis. The agency piqued my interested because it offers one production house for several services, including still photography, video and design.
I'm now booking all of my weddings through Hands Up, and you can check out their pricing and services at the website. Brad has recruited myself, Kyle Kurlick and Emily Spence into the agency. Kyle's a badass photographer and Emily is a badass designer.
The agency also has a Facebook page. We're going to have a lot of fun.
In October I had the pleasure of attending the Mountain Workshops for the second straight year. Held in Elizabethtown, Ky., about 45 miles south of Louisville, the workshops welcomed more than 70 photojournalists who scoured Hardin County for picture and video stories.
In its 35th year, it was one of the largest workshops ever, if not the biggest, said James Kenney, director of the photojournalism program at Western Kentucky University, host of the workshops. Check out the video — it was produced by the enormously talented staff that in many cases uses vacation time from their day jobs to support the workshops.
Of the two picture stories I produced this year at Mountain Workshops, my favorite was about a gentle toymaker in Glendale, Ky. Hardin "Sonny" Hatfield talked my ear off -- and I loved it.
He told me about the Army during World War II. He told me about his extensive vintage toy collection -- he had a story for each piece. He told me about the restaurant he used to run, and the toy museum he used to operate and the antique store he still owns.
And he let me into his life, only for a few days, but I was grateful.
For 15 years, he has made toys by hand. His favorite subjects are characters from Mickey Mouse and Popeye cartoons.
Originally published as part of the Mountain Workshops, a weeklong photojournalism workshop produced
by Western Kentucky University. The 2010 workshops were held in Elizabethtown, Ky. >> View the full picture story.
The oil was all over the place, but Steve Rogers smiled.
His fire-apple red tractor was on the fritz. The problem was in a hard-to-reach spot. But after some finagling, he had it working again.
Steve runs his family’s 1,800-acre farm now that his father, Bud, and mother, Martha, are retired.
Steve has a daughter, Sarah, and two sons, Adam and Phillip, that are studying agronomy at Western Kentucky University. His boys grew up riding with him in combines and tractors. They recently bought their own farm not far away.
Farming is like gambling, Bud said. The summer of 2010 was especially dry, and Bud harvested his soybean crop about a month early.
“Timing and weather are everything in this farming,” Bud said.
Steve’s house is about 200 yards from his parents. It’s convenient, because his mom will often fix lunch, and his dad will drive it out to him while Steve’s working the farm.
Steve is handing down lessons of farming to his sons — a rite of passage once common for all Americans that has given way to urban expansion and sprawling mega farms. Steve used to take his sons with him from chore to chore, but now they plan the day’s work in the morning and split up.
“They go their way and I go mine,” Steve said, “and they’re on on their own.”
A short documentary about Picture Kentucky, the photojournalism workshop held each fall. This was shot, edited and produced live during the workshop Sept. 29-Oct. 2, 2010 in Beattyville, Ky., a town tucked away in the hills of Appalachia. It premiered during the workshop’s final night.
When the Canon 5D Mark II arrived in late 2008 it ushered in a revolution in multimedia photojournalism. Now photographers carrying a DSLR camera could not only capture moments and events with still images but also record stunning high definition video using brilliant DSLR lenses.
In July I will have the pleasure of teaching a weeklong multimedia reporting class at the Maine Media Workshops. The class is entitled "Stills and Video for Multimedia" and will explore how to capture content with cameras and edit it into a multimedia story.
We will focus on reporting multimedia stories with stills, video and sound. The class will shoot with DSLRs and will edit in Final Cut Pro.
The 2010 catalog is now online and more information on the workshops are there too. My class is July 11-17. Tuition is $1,050.
Pack Clif Bars, learn a half-dozen methods to sterilize drinking water and charge lots and lots of batteries are three foundational tips for working in a disaster environment in a third world country.
The topic on This Week in Photography is Haiti and how photojournalists are coping with the conditions there.
The group gives advice on the podcast that is basic, but would be helpful to anyone traveling to a second- or third-world country to shoot.
Also discussed is: when to put the camera down and help. I remember listening to a talk given by Los Angeles Times photographer Rick Loomis last year at the Mountain Workshops where he showed video of the U.S. military unit he was traveling with taking heavy fire in Iraq. Loomis said at one point he stopped shooting and helped other troops carry a wounded American soldier out of the firestorm. In that situation, he said, your instinct tells you to drop the camera and do what's right.
It didn't hit me until Rick Loomis donned a purple wig. The renowned Los Angeles Times photographer and other photo, multimedia and writing coaches marched into the 2009 Mountain Workshops in Murray, Ky., wearing vintage hats and stuffed dresses.
I had the honor of serving on the faculty as the world's top photographers and multimedia producers invaded western Kentucky for a week of intense journalism.
The pictures inspired, the video stories moved (figuratively) and laughter was contagious. If the creative energy in that workshop can't preserve first-class journalism, nothing will.
(Photo: Rick Loomis waits for the last compact flash card drop - Derek Poore)
The University of Kentucky's Picture Kentucky photojournalism workshop was held in September and if there was ever a contained lab of journalistic inspiration, workshops like these are it.
I attended the workshop bent on honing my multimedia skills. I followed around John Haywood, a local artist and musician who teaches traditional Appalachian music to children and adults alike. He makes his living selling art and teaching music.
Haywood's Web site is haywoodart.com.
(Photo by David Stephenson)