Our Mission
The Mountain Workshops gather storytellers from around the world to document the diverse communities within the Commonwealth of Kentucky through visual and written narratives.

We seek to educate and inspire those participating in the workshops as well as those in the communities we document.

We believe in the power of human connection through storytelling, and we create and preserve a valuable cultural archive of Kentucky life.
Who We Are

As the leaves fall annually, the Western Kentucky University's School of Media Photojournalism Program’s Mountain Workshops draws together a team of dedicated teachers and determined participants for a week of compelling storytelling in Kentucky. Together they explore the richness of these communities, the lives of the people who live in them, and the beauty of the landscapes. Participants of the Mountain gain hands-on experience telling stories in the documentary tradition. In return, the community receives a unique document of their county through both compelling visual imagery and written stories.

To date, more than 40 counties in the state of Kentucky have been documented in a historically significant way. In its early years, the Mountain Workshops also documented five communities in north-central Tennessee, part of the Cumberland Gap region the two states share.

Beyond the educational experience that the Mountain Workshops provides, a 100-plus-page photo book is published, as well as a website containing all of the stories documented during the week. In addition, a 50-picture exhibition is printed and framed and is available to the community.

What we do
The Mountain Workshops currently houses five concurrent educational experiences during the five-day program.
The PHOTOJOURNALISM workshop focuses on still photography, as coaches and participants tell stories about the community through the lives of the people who live there.
Video Storytelling
The VIDEO workshop challenges participants to record sound and shoot video, then they use digital and online tools to spin these threads into stories that captivate.
Picture Editing
The PICTURE EDITING workshop draws on the design sensibilities and electronic publishing expertise of its coaches to help participants learn to weave photographs and text together into memorable narratives.
Digital Storytelling
The DIGITAL STORYTELLING workshop debuted during the 2018 Mt. Sterling workshop and focuses on a collaborative approach to storytelling using still photography, video, data visualization, alternative forms of visual acquisition, and writing.
K-12 Educators
The K-12 EDUCATORS workshop is designed to serve primary and secondary school educators who are identified by Dataseam, a sponsor of the Mountain Workshops. Through observation, hands-on projects, and critiques, these K-12 educators learn storytelling skills at the Mountain Workshops that they can bring back to their classrooms.
Our Educational Mission

Since its beginnings, the Mountain Workshops has been at the heart of the WKU Photojournalism program’s educational mission. It remains the program’s best example of what can be achieved in journalism education outside of the classroom with the support of journalism professionals donating thousands of hours of their time and expertise, generous sponsors, and a dedicated staff of WKU Photojournalism teachers and students. Though the Mountain runs just five days every fall, it takes a year of hard work to plan and execute the program successfully. When planning each year’s workshop experience, the WKU staff relies heavily on the support that it receives from the communities it documents, the journalism professionals who come from across the United States to contribute, and the sponsors who make the workshops a success.

Our Core Values
  • Continuing Education
    Create a secure environment that encourages learning and creativity.
  • Encourage Collaboration
    Foster collaboration and cooperation between participants, faculty and staff.
  • Respect of Community
    Respect the values and traditions of the communities we document.
  • Ethical Approach
    Practice ethical behavior in the storytelling process.
  • Individual Learning
    Inspire participants to continue developing their storytelling skills.
  • The Power of Visual
    Preserve the unique culture of Kentucky through images and words.