• September 24, 2013

Camera Truth: The Missouri Photo Workshop at 65

Dennis Dimick

“Show truth with a camera. Ideally truth is a matter of personal integrity. In no circumstances will a posed or fake photograph be tolerated.”

Picture of a church step, Trenton, Missouri. 1995
Church Step, Trenton, Missouri. 1995

Clif Edom’s words remain the credo of the Missouri Photo Workshop that he founded in 1949, and this week 45 photographers from 12 nations are gathered in the north-central Missouri town of Trenton. They are here to find and create a picture story that documents the life of this town.

Picture of a man in a bathtub, Trenton, Missouri. 1995
Man in Bathtub, Trenton, Missouri. 1995

No assignments are handed out. Unless photographers find their own story, pitch it, and get it approved, they will take no pictures. This is a “storytelling with a camera” workshop, and it demands independent thinking, initiative, and self-reliance.

Robert Gilka, National Geographic’s legendary director of photography, served on the faculty for decades. National Geographic Editor in Chief Chris Johns has been both student and faculty, and Sarah Leen, our director of photography, was a student with me in 1978, when the workshop was in Lebanon.

Picture of Missouri Photo Workshop faculty Bob Gilka and Bill Strode, background, at a workshop football game. Circa 1973
Missouri Photo Workshop faculty Bob Gilka and Bill Strode, background, at a workshop football game. Circa 1973

(View a tribute to Robert Gilka.)

Over the next few days, we’ll be focused on story discovery and development. By midweek pictures will be coming in as stories are approved. Later this week I’ll update you on the kinds of emerging stories we’re seeing. Next week, after the workshop has ended, a new website will feature all the stories, and I’ll summarize how it all went and whose work stood out.

In the meantime you can see picture stories from many previous Missouri Photo Workshops here: http://www.mophotoworkshop.org.

Dennis Dimick is the executive editor for National Geographic magazine and has served on the Missouri Workshop faculty 16 times. Having the chance to help guide and encourage a new generation of documentary photojournalists is a yearly highlight. Follow Dennis on Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr.

There are 9 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. grady ball
    November 19, 2015

    Love and happiness to all photogs involved. One error, however. Photo of man in “bathtub” is actually in a portable hot tub.

  2. Gts Bunty
    December 19, 2013

    So beautiful place and oh so beautiful shots! the water is such an amazing color i am very impress and thanks for shearing!
    Photography Schools

  3. Anna Porter
    September 30, 2013

    I live in north central Missouri and frequently take rural photos-especially when I know the story behind them. Granted I am more of a “pure nature” kind of person, but there are exceptions…like watching the local ranchers move cattle on horseback up on highway 136 east of Unionville, MO.
    Now I had to look through the Flinthillsmediaproject.com page, because I am extraordinarily drawn to them. And I must admit-after reading Kathleen Martins editorial of why she liked the Flint Hills-I think she wrapped it up wonderfully. Because it is what it is-magical. That is the same spirit that describes these rural projects to a “T”-regardless of the primary focus. It is the magic, and the story brings that magic to life. What the eye sees, must be shared by the written word for the magic to work.
    Well said Kathleen….very well said.

  4. Earl Richardson
    September 27, 2013

    1984 Missouri Workshop alum in Forsyth. One of the greatest experiences I had as a photojournalist.

  5. Kevin C. Downs
    September 27, 2013

    I am an Alum of MPW63! Clinton,MO
    To my friends @MPW65, a job well done! The stories are a part of a great and proud history of the FSA!

  6. David Hutson
    September 25, 2013

    I’m an alum from 1971 in West Plains and again in 1975 in Warrensburg.
    First workshop I thought I knew everything, second one Gilka was all over my ass and I sadly never recovered the respect for this great man.
    I was taught in Cliff Edom’s last college year and fully appreciate his criticism and his lovely wife Vi’s weekly cookies and coffee at the critique sessions.
    Happy to be an MU graduate.

  7. John Waire
    September 25, 2013

    …thank you! What a great opportunity. Hoping to apply in 2014.

  8. Ben Hoste
    September 25, 2013

    We are working to get the MPW archives up and running again, hit some issues this week. Sorry about that!

  9. Madeline McCullough
    September 25, 2013

    I’m an alum! 1986? ’87? It was held in Jefferson City and Joel Sartore convinced me I had to get inside the state
    penitentiary. I did. Young, female, and determined I spent my week photographing “Hamburger John” an inmate/medic known for putting fellow inmates back together even when they came to him looking like hamburger. What a great experience the Missouri Photojournalism Workshop was for me. I now teach at Wichita State University. Check out our
    project set up with similar constraints: http://www.flinthillsmediaproject.com/ 25 students in four days do a lot of work producing a 156-page magazine plus stories that run across the state in print and broadcast. Look forward to watching what develops. (Wish I could get your archive link to work.)

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