Photojournalism students capture meaning of Georgia National Fair

Thirteen photojournalism students recently sprawled across the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agriculture Center. They, under the guidance of senior lecturer Mark Johnson, were tasked with the same purpose as the six previous years of student visits to the Georgia National Fair: Don’t show what the fair looks like, show what it means.

The annual visit to capture the meaning of the Fair festivities began in 2014.

“The goal of the workshop is to give the students an immersive experience in visual storytelling and allow them to hear different voices on how to accomplish that,” Johnson said.

Fellow journalism faculty members Dodie Cantrell and Kyser Lough joined in on the 2021 workshop. Alumni Allison Carter (ABJ ’09) and Andrea Briscoe (ABJ ’12) also went to serve as coaches. Visiting professionals from around the region also accompany the students and faculty. Mike Haskey from the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer and Billy Weeks, an independent photojournalist and professor at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, attended and are regular visiting professionals every year.

Here is a sample of photos taken on Saturday, October 9, 2021.

  • Photo: Abigail Vanderpoel

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution highlighted the students’ work from the 2021 workshop.

The Bitter Southerner recently published an online gallery from the first six events. You can view it here.


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)