Since 1976, the Mountain Workshops have visually documented at least 30 communities in Kentucky and north-central Tennessee. Hundreds of photojournalists have shot thousands of images that show the lives of communities such as Burkesville, Hopkinsville and Somerset in Kentucky and Celina and Lafayette in Tennessee. The map above shows the reach of the Mountain Workshops.
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 — three concurrent workshops that fine-tune photography, picture-editing and multimedia 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, workshop staff now spend months planning and setting up sophisticated facilities with state-of-the-art computing and digital imaging equipment.