Light & Shadow #18

Leo — Monett, MO 1979

Since 1949, the University of Missouri School of Journalism has hosted a yearly photojournalism workshop in one of the small communities around the state. In 1979, I sweet-talked the publisher of the newspaper I worked for into springing for my attendance.

After a pleasurable drive from Kansas City, I walked into an auditorium and took a seat along with 50 or so other photographers from newspapers around the country. Then it hit me.

The Missouri Photo Workshop is some serious shizzle. In front of the room sat a group of heavy-hitting photographers and photo editors from the biggest publications in the country. Think National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post … Legends to those of us in the audience.

After a briefing on how the workshop would operate, we boarded a bus for a tour of the area. The bottom line, each of us had to find a story that we would work on for the week, but before we could shoot even one frame, we had to sell the idea to the Heavy-Hitters. It would take me a couple of days to find my story and get it approved.

But woe to those who got started right away.

At some point each afternoon, all film from the day was to be turned in for processing. Then, the heavy-hitters would select pictures for that evening’s slide show. 

As the auditorium lights dimmed on the first night, our confidence and jocularity would last only as long as it took for the first picture to hit the screen and a Heavy-Hitter to start speaking.

This was a CRITIQUE session. No words were minced.

On night two, everyone squirmed in their seats. A picture appeared along with the words ‘what kind of shit is this?’

On night three, when the lights went down, it was my picture of Leo to appear on the screen. The room gasped, and for the first time, the Heavy-Hitters had complimentary words. To say I breathed a sigh of relief is an understatement.

And I was proud too because the Heavy-Hitters liked my picture. 

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