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, 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.
Selecting for Interviews
Deciding who I wanted to interview was easy. I chose powerful stories that I, and other readers, would want to know more about. When I chose the subject of photo editing decisions changing how people interpreted stories I knew I had to pick stories that made an impact not just visually, but emotionally as well.
The stories I chose were:
Raising Farm and Family by Jake R. Rutherford
Cuban Wood by Dotan Saguy
Life and Limits by Clare Fiesel
Familia by Griselda San Martin
A Duke and a Cowboy by Guillem Sartorio
Working on a Love by Jon Lemons
Each story was chosen because it had the visual diversity and personal connection that elicited further inquiry. They were stories that I felt could be evaluated for their photographic choices and would promote discussion with the subjects.
My research topic is not just how the photographic choices for a story influence perceptions, but how the subjects themselves feel about how they are represented and if the edit of the photographs have any effect on that.
How'd It Go?
Getting the interviews scheduled was trickier than I thought it would be. I faced a lot of obstacles and most of it had to do with communication. The only way to get the contact information for the subjects was to contact the photographers. I only had email addresses so I started there.
So I emailed the photographers. Half of them emailed me back within the week. Some of them took a second email to get their attention, while others took up to a month to respond. Not living in Cuba myself also hindered my ability to interview. I needed to conduct all of the interviews in one day because I did not have the time or money to make multiple visits or stay multiple days.
My personal life was also getting complicated because I was leaving Missouri shortly for an internship in Houston. After I received the contact info from photographers I immediately started trying to get ahold of subjects. I knew I wanted to interview at least five people and hoped I would hear back in time.
The subjects I was able to get ahold of either wasn't in town when I needed to travel to Cuba for my interviews, or accepted. Unfortunately, this only left two interviews for my time there. One went very well, knowing what he was talking about and very articulate. The other was not as helpful. This was in part due to my interviewing skills, the interview material, and the interviewee, similar to what Star Zagofsky stated.
Currently, I am working on making more connections. Although the interview will be harder to conduct since I won't be able to see them in person, I need to try in order to collect sustenance for my research.
The information I've gathered will help in the long run, but a few more interviews need to be conducted in order for me to continue with this project. I have selected a new batch of stories to interview from:
Cuba's Next Generation by Tim Tai
I'm Just Jimmy by Meredith Goldberg
Love, Faith, and Family by Jordan Starr
Lisa Lorraine: The New Me by Gabe Wolf
All Things Girl by Jacqueline Sofia
As of today I have received responses from four photographers with contact information for their subjects and have been able to contact one subject. In order to conduct these interviews I will be creating online surveys for the subjects to complete.
These surveys will have a copy of each version of the story for the subjects to review and answer a set of questions about. I will then proceed to call back with follow up questions to get the information necessary to finish my studies.
More information to come!