Advanced photojournalism students hone skills at Georgia National Fair

Group of students and mentors at the Georgia National Fair.
Advanced photojournalism students and mentors prepare for a day making photographs at the Georgia National Fair on Friday, October 13, 2023, in Perry, Georgia. (Photo/Mark E. Johnson,

Advanced photojournalism students hone skills at Georgia National Fair

October 24, 2023

There are almost an overwhelming number of photo opportunities at a fair, as students in Mark Johnson’s Advanced Photojournalism class discovered recently. The group of 18 students, plus professional mentors, traveled to Perry, Georgia, the weekend of Oct. 13-15, to work on their storytelling skills and make pictures at the Georgia National Fair.

I had a game plan on what photos I wanted to make, but when I got to the fair over half my plan went out the window,” said Nicholas Ladd, a fourth year journalism student. “There is so much to do at the fair that there’s a story everywhere you turn. I made photos that I expected to get, but also photos that I never dreamed I would make.”

The students spent from sun-up to nearly midnight capturing images and telling visual stories from the livestock competitions, rides, food, performances and games. Every few hours they checked in with their professional mentors to receive feedback on the pictures they had made.

Nava Rawls, a fourth-year journalism major, said her images improved throughout the day based on feedback from her mentor, Kayla Renie, a newsroom adviser for The Red & Black. 

“After my second time coming back for edits, Kayla heavily critiqued many of my photos and took the time to go through each one of them with me multiple times,” Rawls said. “It surprised me how meticulous she was, but her coaching helped me to be more thoughtful as I continued making photos throughout the day.”

In addition to improving technical camera skills, the students are pushed to work out of their comfort zone, including interacting with the subjects they photographed as they asked their names and learned more of their stories to include in captions.

“Having to photograph and interact with strangers was intimidating at first, but I became more confident approaching people throughout the day and was able to build relationships with the people I met,” Rawls admitted. “In the end, the best photos were the ones that came from me doing things I was scared to do.”

Ladd agreed that the fair provided an incredible place to test photography skills and tell amazing stories. 

Most people are willing to talk to you about almost anything and that they really do appreciate when you spend your time listening to and learning from them,” Ladd concluded.

Editor’s Note:

To view additional images, please see the photo gallery of pictures made by the students and published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.