Photojournalism students showcase work after week-long workshop

Photojournalism students and their subjects discuss photo and video projects April 16 at Moore Hall. Documentary photographer and filmmaker Danny Wilcox Frazier, far right, worked alongside students providing insight and critique.

Nine photojournalism students presented photos of family, religion and rural Michigan as part of the 2019 All That Unites Documentary Workshop in Moore Hall April 16. 

The workshop is led by photojournalism faculty Kent Miller and documentary photographer and filmmaker Danny Wilcox Frazier. Over the course of a week, students met with their subjects and photographed them several times and for several hours. 

At the event, students introduced their subjects and provided context about their projects. There was a question and answer session afterwards in which the photographers and their subjects answered questions from those in attendance.

Frazier has been working with Miller to do the workshop for the last eight years. The theme and title for this year’s workshop was “All That Unites.”

Of all the workshops he teaches, the one Frazier teaches at Central Michigan University is one of his favorites because of the students’ work ethic and the location, he said.

“We’re right at the heart of Michigan which puts us right in the heart of the issues I’ve spent nearly two decades covering,” Frazier said. “All the challenges that rural America is facing — the small towns, the loss of industry in middle America, the impact of depopulation.”

Frazier said he was glad to see the students go out of their comfort zones and grow as photographers throughout of the week.

“The level of quality that this group of workshop students produced is the highest I’ve seen,” he said.

Muskegon junior and photojournalism student Alli Rusco said the workshop was a challenge, but seeing the end result was worth it.

“In the beginning, it was pretty intense,” Rusco said. “I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.”

Rusco photographed senior Kaden Keon, a kicker on the CMU football team. Rusco’s project highlighted Keon’s life as a gun owner in his hometown of St. Louis, Michigan.

“I knew of him, so I kind of had an idea of what he was like,” Rusco said. “But learning more about his personality and the gun situation, it was really interesting and it made me want to get to know more people in that way.”

Frankfort junior MacKenna Kelly photographed Muslim students and presented their portraits with handwritten notes from the students. While presenting, she had her subjects at the showcase read their messages to the audience.

Kelly's biggest challenge was gaining the trust of her subjects and helping them tell their story.

“It was an amazing experience for me because I was around amazing people all week,” Kelly said. “I grew close to my subjects and the closer I became the easier it was for me to tell their truth through a picture.”

Besides photography, Kelly said that the workshop taught her a lot about herself.

“My purpose really solidified in the last week and a half knowing how much impact I can have and getting to know people,” she said. “I know that my purpose is to live life helping people and helping get their truth and their experiences out.”