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.
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.