As a University of Missouri masters candidate for the School of Journalism, I must complete a project or a thesis in order to earn my degree. For my bachelor's degree at Mizzou I studied journalism with an emphasis in photojournalism, for my master's degree I am studying journalism with and emphasis in visual editing.
The project I have chosen to work on is the Missouri Photo Workshop 68th edition book, which ties in skills I have learned during my five years of study. There are two parts to this project; the book and the professional analysis, which I have laid out in my project proposal. This entails photo editing, layout, design, interviews, research, and an analysis of the finished project with a reflection into my experience. All of which will be laid out into separate blog posts as each phase is completed.
This will be accomplished through close work with my professors including Jim Curley, adjunct faculty and co-director of MPW; David Rees, faculty chair and co-director of MPW; Jackie Bell, associate professor; and Brian Kratzer, director of photography for the Columbia Missourian.
Reaching almost seven decades, Missouri Photo Workshop has been renowned for bringing together photographers from around the world to work with a select staff of professional photojournalists who are devoted to the education of our field's future. MPW was started in 1949 by Clifton and Vi Edom, to whom some attribute the birth of photojournalism. This past year's workshop comprised 46 photographers from 15 different states and 10 foreign countries, all wanting to learn about the art of storytelling through photographs.
MPW 68 was stationed in a small, rural, Midwest town of about 3,300 residents called Cuba, Missouri. Photographers participating in the workshop were limited to the town and its surrounding farmland. Each photographer was assigned two faculty members, professional photojournalists tasked with helping formulate an edit. While each photographer is only given 400 frames during the weeklong workshop, their final edits are usually around 12 photographs with the aid of professional faculty members.
As I stated in a previous blog post, design and layout will mean two different things in this series. Layout is referring to the how the words and photographs are arranged on a page while design will refer to the book as a whole, how the stories are placed, and how other non-photographer pages are created.
To me, this part of the process seemed like photo editing but instead of choosing the order of images, I chose the order of stories and pages. That is why I enjoyed working on this part of the project so much. My committee chair, David Rees, and I laid every story on the ground and walked around the room picking up and placing stories where we thought they belonged in the book. It was a great experience and fun to see the organized chaos that was our strategy (I thought I had a picture but cannot find it).
Similar to a photo story, the stories' order must have a flow to it. The documentary stories cannot just be placed in any random order, the way the stories are sequenced will affect the mood and the tone. You need a lede, variety, transitions, and a catchy closer. I wanted a lede that immediately showed what the book would be about, a small town off of Route 66. I also wanted a closer that didn't leave the reader with questions or negative thoughts.
I will start with the intro. This came before a series of photographs that I used to preface the documentary stories. Writing the intro was difficult. Cuba is a small place so it is was hard to find a lot of information specific to that town.
I started by interviewing a couple who worked at the Crawford Historical Society & Museum. They gave me some very helpful information and let me explore their archives. I spent a few hours there and was able to find facts that I may not have been able to find online if I didn't know what I was looking for.
My main priority during the visit to the museum was to find historical photographs that I could use for the book. I was able to find some great pieces that also coincided with the historical facts I learned.
This is a good example of the sequencing I was trying to accomplish in the book. Serving Cuba is a story about a woman working at the local food pantry. This goes into a story called Shirley's Journey, which is about a woman who works at the thrift store. Both work for the betterment of others in a community service fashion, and both are loved by the community.
This sense of community is transitioned into The Sisterhood. This story is about a group of mennonite woman, living unconventionally and independently. I then follow it up with Living By The Word because it was about family and religion.
These are the last two stories I have in the MPW book. Although A Duke and A Cowboy is a sad story, I've made it the second to last because of the strength of the story and the photographs.
Cowboy Colt follows this up because it is also about a guy and his passion for horses and all things farm. The first is sad and the second one leaves you on a happier note. It's the perfect feeling I wanted readers to end on.
My last example shows my transitioning differently than the other two have because it is not as straight forward. Keep The Engine Running is about a man, his shop and his family.
The next story, Midwest Truck Stop is about community but has the same uplifting story as Keep the Engine Running. It ends with the stories of the people and, specifically, getting their hair cut.
This gave me the transition for America, Happy To Be Here. The story is about a family who owns a hair salon, trying to get by, followed by Dana's Choice. Dana's Choice is also about a barber shop owned by an individual woman.
After I was finished with the design of the book, I had to finish the intro and begin gathering information for my research component of my project. The book was only part of the work.
I conducted interviews for the intro, not just for facts, but for personal accounts from the story subjects as well. I wanted to see how MPW effected them and what they thought of their finished products.
This information served a dual purpose; to create depth in the intro and to help me answer the questions about photo editing that I was hoping to discover. All of which will be evaluated in future blog posts.