When 40 photographers arrive small-town folks get curious

By: 
Duane Dailey

The people from Mountain Grove, Mo., came to see what 40 photographers saw at the end of a week in their town, smack dab in the middle of the Ozarks. It was beautiful.

It was the 70th annual edition of the Missouri Photo Workshop. Another record milestone, it was the 50th town documented.

The photographers with lots of help from a faculty of 10 showed 417 enlarged photos laid out on tables at the high school arena. Each table held about 10 photos from a story.

All of this and more will go into a state archive like no other in the nation. Co-director Jim Curley said the group joins some 2,400 photographers who have attended a photo workshop. They make a unique alumni group.

The archive of photos from all of those years of making pictures becomes more valuable with age.

A few years ago the National Geographic drew on that collection to make a book called “Small Town America.” In addition for the last few years, there has been a separate book made on each new town of the year.

Already there’s talk by Mountain Grove officials about making a book on their town. In the last visit with the mayor he said: “We will talk about this at the next city council meeting.”

What a celebration.

It takes more than 40 photographers. It takes about that many more people to support their work. Those are mostly MU students.

They experience the Missouri Method of teaching. You learn by doing. The “doing” is far beyond my skills. It involves a whole lot of computer magic by young people who understand digital. It takes what seems like miles of cable to connect computers on work tables of faculty teams. They help the student teams who are making the show and archive happen.

That’s beyond me. I can still do journalism for the week. I write a column printed in the daily “Rangefinder.” That’s a newsletter that teaches.

I’ve spent 40 or so weeks of my life in hands-on teaching at workshops. I learn by doing. It has a profound effect on journalism, even on agricultural journalism.

So much has changed in just the years I’ve been connected with teaching and communicating.

It happened again this year. One of the subjects for the week, a cattle farmer who was my student on campus 31 years ago. He was photographed by a workshopper from Montana. At the show, the farmer took me to look at photographs of his cows. His compliment was: “You understand what I do.”

I did. He told of how he transformed a herd of “the worst sale barn cows” into a uniform herd influenced by MU Extension Show-Me-Select Replacement Heifer Program. MU protocols and new genetics speed progress.

I am lucky enough to understand the photojournalism side of this week and as well as the farm stories, Also, I understand Extension education. My contribution has been in adding educational know-how in teaching adults.

Some who came to the show recognized me through my stories.

A co-faculty member said: “People know you.” He was amazed. Me too.

I apply writing skills I’ve learned by working for Missouri farmers.

I also learn from working with small-town newspapers, as well as fellow faculty members on campus and in this extension teaching.

It’s a pleasure at the end of the week to have workshoppers tell me: “I can understand your stories.”

Like other faculty, I do it because I believe it. We all communicate better. A former journalist among the visitors expressed some of my concerns. The freedom of journalism in this country is not a given. We must defend the free press from politicians who want only adulation from the press.

Can journalism be improved? Yes. That’s why we continue to help teach the next generation coming on. We need them more than ever. 

Tell your story to duanedailey7@gmail.com.

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