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
Photo: Alex Arango
Photo: Basil Terhune
Photo: Denaili Lerch
Photo: Foster Steinbeck
Photo: Julia Walkup
Photo: Kathryn Skeean
Photo: Larry Meisner
Photo: Lilli Dickens
Photo: Morgan Phillips
Photo: Sarah White
Photo: Sydney Fordice
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.
Every fall, Mark E. Johnson’s photojournalism students drive from the University of Georgia to the fairgrounds in Perry, GA with one directive: “Don’t show what the fair looks like, show what it means.” Their photos take us back.🎡🎢🍿https://t.co/p2a7PJd0HLpic.twitter.com/2cl2oGz19O
I am extremely passionate about supporting women in media, specifically women that go into sports media. As a woman in sports, I have first hand experience dealing with how difficult it can be. I love connecting with other women who are as passionate about sports as I am and helping others get into the field!
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I am an extremely shy person by nature. I mention this only because I have spoken with a lot of people who are nervous about going into journalism because they are introverted by nature due to the amount we have to talk to strangers and be in overwhelming situations. I am living proof that you can do it!
What does the word “tenacity” mean to you?
Tenacity to me means rolling with the punches and remaining undeterred when the going gets tough.
Who has had the biggest impact on your life during your time at UGA?
Two professors in particular have had a major impact during my time at UGA: Rebecca Burns and Mark Johnson. Both have advocated for me endlessly, and both took a chance on me when I got to UGA. I remember going to Professor Johnson’s office when I was a freshman, nowhere near entering his program, shaking in my boots, and he was incredibly open to helping me get better. Rebecca was like a second mother to me at The Red & Black, always making sure I was home safe from protest coverage. She took a chance on me at The Red & Black when she was newsroom advisor and I was an overly enthusiastic contributor, and I will always be grateful to her for that.
What has been your proudest moment in the past year?
My proudest moment would probably have to be when I set foot on the field at Truist Park for the first time, and said to myself, “I did this. I got myself here.” It was a dream come true, and to be honest, I don’t think I stopped grinning at any point during my time there. That really solidified to me that I am supposed to be doing this.
What is your favorite app or social media channel?
Instagram is my favorite just because it is a great platform for photo-oriented people. I get to share all of my work in a clean-looking, fun fashion.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve received from an instructor, mentor or family member?
Both of my parents always emphasized working hard and not expecting anything to be handed to me. That was how I was raised, and that is how I tackle things to this day. It wasn’t really a single piece of advice, more like a mindset. Both of my parents inspire me every day.
Who is your professional hero?
I have so, so many. My uncle Chris Christo is a photojournalist at the Boston Herald, and he is the reason I really got into journalistic photography. Another would be Kevin Liles, the Braves’ team photographer, who I had the pleasure of meeting over the summer. The work he produces is absolutely stunning.
What are you planning to do after graduation?
My plan post-graduation is to work in the sports media world in some capacity as a photographer, whether that be as a photojournalist or working with an organization in the MLB, NFL or a school athletic association. My internship as a sports photographer with the Gwinnett Daily Post really solidified my plans. I realized that not only did it not feel like “work” to me, I was the happiest I had ever been while out there at the ballpark or the field.
Where is your favorite place on campus and why?
This answer is a pretty predictable one: the “Photo Cave” in the journalism building. It is such a safe, happy place to be where I get to learn about what I love to do.
Many UGA students spend their time as students learning skills that build toward a capstone project. While some define that seminal project early on, others wait for it to unfold, gradually over time. Then there is the rare student like Kelsey Coffey (AB ’20) who has that defining project of her time at UGA presented to her a month before graduation.
The invitation presented to Coffey was to help research, anchor and report on an hour-long documentary, “60th Anniversary of Desegregation at UGA,” produced by Grady College Newsource.
“When I started at the University of Georgia, I couldn’t have dreamed finishing this way,” Coffey said. “Doing this project was the greatest honor of my life and my time at UGA. It was an honor, a privilege and a gift to be involved.”
Coffey and a group of 10 students worked under the direction of supervising producer Dodie Cantrell-Bickley and other Grady College faculty to put together a retrospective and study of the social impact of desegregating UGA. The documentary includes rare, archived news footage from 1961 of Charlayne Hunter (now Hunter-Gault) and Hamilton Holmes entering campus; perspectives from other students during that time; current interviews with Hunter-Gault, Mary Frances Early, Hamilton Holmes, Jr. and others; and a look at the current impact and future plans of diversity at UGA.
The idea for the documentary was presented to Cantrell-Bickley by Dean Charles Davis, who obtained funding support from the Office of the President at the University of Georgia. Cantrell-Bickley enlisted other faculty members including Valerie Boyd, Amanda Bright, Mark Johnson and Ralitsa Vassileva to help the students with the story structure, fact-checking, historical context and consistency.
The archival footage was sourced through the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection and UGA Public Affairs at the University of Georgia Libraries. The WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection is part of the Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection.
While it is the news coverage from 1961 that gives the documentary its sense of perspective, it is the current interviews with Hunter-Gault, Early and Hamilton Holmes, Jr. that generate its lasting resonance.
“Having the characters tell their stories in their own voices is what gives this project value over time,” Johnson, a content advisor on the project, said. “To preserve their voices telling their story is what will make it so compelling at the 75th anniversary of desegregation and beyond.”
Boyd, the Charlayne Hunter-Gault Distinguished Writer in Residence who served as a historical consultant for the documentary, said that Hunter-Gault was extremely generous with her time and was interviewed by the students for nearly three hours during the first session.
“Charlayne was excited watching these young journalists work and ask questions that were great,” Boyd said. “You could see her sheer enjoyment of the process.”
While Hunter-Gault may have been receiving a lot of energy from the students, it was a reciprocal experience for the students.
“Charlayne Hunter-Gault is a gift to humanity,” Coffey said of her interactions with the professional journalist. “To be able to share time and space with an individual of her caliber is unbelievable. She was kind, gracious, funny, authentic—all of the things you would hope she would be, she is and more.”
Further reflections from students involved with the project are being gathered now and will be shared in coming weeks on the Grady Newsource website.
The UGA student chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, another important connection since Hunter-Gault is a national member of NABJ, is coordinating the premiere of the desegregation documentary.
“Charlayne has been an influential leader among NABJ and the Civil Rights movement, so it is important for us to continue to uplift the NABJ community locally by helping with this event,” said Tylar Norman, NABJ chapter president. “I hope that the legacy of this documentary on campus will be one that unites us and reminds everyone of the brave people who took the first step toward desegregating UGA and pursuing diversity and inclusion for all.”
When all is said and done, the legacy of this project focuses not only on the incredible story of desegregating UGA, but in the passion and work ethic the students telling the story committed to this project.
“The biggest bonus of this project were the students,” Cantrell-Bickley concluded. “They produced excellent work, and when you produce work like that and you find in your soul that you are capable of producing that, you will not want to hold yourself to a standard less than that because you know what you can achieve. Our mission is an exceptional education for our students…so, if this college can help students do that—yay!”
The 60th Anniversary of Desegregation documentary.