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Documenting Kentucky for 41 years

Western Kentucky University's Mountain Workshops grew over four decades from a class field trip into one of the nation's oldest and largest one-week training camps for visual storytelling.

Since 1976, the Mountain Workshops have visually documented close to 40 communities in Kentucky and north-central Tennessee. Hundreds of photojournalists have shot hundreds-of-thousands of images that depict the lives of communities such as Burkesville, Hopkinsville and Somerset in Kentucky and Celina and Lafayette in Tennessee.

The Workshops History

In 1976, two Western Kentucky University faculty members took a dozen photojournalism students into eastern Kentucky and Tennessee to document the 11 remaining one-room schools there.

The teachers didn't realize it at the time, but that was the beginning of an annual trek designed to sharpen students' skills while documenting small towns in Kentucky and sometimes Tennessee.

Over time the effort morphed into the Mountain Workshops — five concurrent workshops that fine-tune photography, picture-editing, video story telling, data vizualization and time-lapse skills of college students and mid-career professionals in an intensive weeklong effort that documents a town and its surrounding countryside.

WKU faculty members are joined by volunteer shooting, editing and writing coaches who travel here from across the country — from The New York Times, from the Los Angeles Times, from National Geographic and a host of other venues — to guide trainees and produce content for a photo exhibit, several multimedia productions, and a book of 100-plus pages.

From their humble beginnings of travel with cameras, black-and-white film and sleeping bags, workshops staff now spend months planning and setting up sophisticated facilities with state-of-the-art computing and digital imaging equipment.

Below is a list of the communities that have been documented since the Mountain began. A book has been published every year starting in 1997.

1976 | ONE-ROOM SCHOOLS
1977 | MAIN STREET
1978 | LAND BETWEEN THE LAKES
1979 | CLAIRFIELD, TN
1980 | BURKESVILLE
1981 | BURKESVILLE
1982 | TOMPKINSVILLE
1983 | MORGANTOWN
1984 | CELINA, TN
1985 | EDMONTON
1986 | SCOTTSVILLE
1987 | LIBERTY
1988 | RUSSELL SPRINGS
1989 | ALBANY
1990 | MONTICELLO
1991 | LAFAYETTE, TN
1992 | COLUMBIA
1993 | JAMESTOWN, TN
1994 | GLASGOW
1995 | SMITHVILLE, TN
1996 | CAMBELSSVILLE
1997 | RUSSELLVILLE
1998 | FRANKLIN
1999 | CENTRAL CITY
2000 | BOWLING GREEN
2001 | HOPKINSVILLE
2002 | CAVE CITY
2003 | BARDSTOWN
2004 | LEBANON
2005 | LAWRENCEBURG
2006 | MADISONVILLE
2007 | DANVILLE
2008 | MAYFIELD
2009 | MURRAY
2010 | ELIZABETHTOWN
2011 | SOMERSET
2012 | HENDERSON
2013 | OWENSBORO
2014 | BEREA
2015 | FRANKFORT
2016 | PADUCAH