A group of 18 photojournalism students and nine professional photojournalists traveled to the Georgia National Fair for a photojournalism workshop. This image of the main ferris wheel, was taken by student Mary Margaret Stewart.

Looking beyond the obvious at the Georgia National Fair

When someone talks about the Georgia National Fair, obvious images come to mind: rides, pigs, kids and cotton candy. However, when the 18 students in Mark Johnson’s Advanced Photojournalism class hear the words “Georgia National Fair,” their challenge is to think beyond the obvious and to create images about what the fair means, not how it looks.

For the sixth year in a row, students headed to Perry, Georgia, on Oct. 5, 2019, to spend a day at the fair. The beauty of the experiential learning workshop is that in addition to taking pictures, the students also receive on-the-spot critiques of their work by nine professional photojournalists.

Kyser Lough joined the group for the first time as one of the professional mentors. Lough, who joined the Grady faculty this year as an assistant professor, heard about the photojournalism workshops during the interview process and was immediately intrigued.

“It’s one thing to teach photography, but to bring so many exceptionally talented photojournalists to work with the students for focused time is amazing,” Lough said.

Jordan Meaker photographs one of the Georgia National Fair games. (Photo: Kyser Lough)

Lough added that one of the luxuries of the workshop is the ability to spend 16 hours at the fair experimenting with shots, while frequently consulting with the professional photojournalists and returning to the fair to take better pictures based on the feedback.

Many of the images will be used by the Georgia National Fair for future promotions and by the Perry Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, which donates their conference room for the students and photojournalists to meet to discuss the images.

New to the weekend was a special photo challenge for those students who arrived the Friday evening before. The students were tasked with taking pictures that evening depicting “fair food” or “date night,” that were then shared on the fair’s Instagram account, while other images throughout the weekend were posted on Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Instagram account.

Johnson, who has coordinated each of the fall trips to the fair, has seen a refined experience each year since many of the professional photojournalists are returning and finding new ways to guide the students.

“I think there were more varied images this year, than in the past,” Johnson said. “These students took the phrase ‘show us what the fair means to heart,’ and that really clicked.”

The weekend workshop is supported by the Carolyn McKenzie and Don E. Carter Chair for Excellence in Journalism.

Below is small sampling of the nearly 40,000 images that were taken. Additional pictures can be viewed on the Grady Newsource website.

  • Katherine Dawson, 20 months old from Fitzgerald, Georgia, eats a candied apple while her brother tries to win a fishing game at the Georgia National Fair in Perry, Georgia, on Saturday, October 5, 2019. (Photo/Erin Schilling)

Date: October 24, 2019
Author:  Sarah E. Freeman,  freemans@uga.edu