L ens Collective is an intense multimedia workshop held every spring and focuses on cultural preservation through digital storytelling. Our first program was held April 6-8, 2017 in Cleveland Mississippi at the Delta State University campus. We had 12 mentors assisting 28 students from eight institutions, including: Allegheny College, American University, Delta State University, Guilford College, Jackson State University, Ohio University, West Virginia University and The University of Mississippi.

But we need to share some history and give credit where credit is due. Stan Alost, associate professor at the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University, wrote a blog post this week. He states that years ago VisCom created a one-day documentary event called “Dawn to Dusk” with students photographing and designing a small special section in the local paper. Students photographed a topic for a day then edited for a day and produced the publications. Then Alost said it faded.

Four years ago, Ohio University alumna Cheryl Hatch, then a journalism professor at Allegheny College, incorporated the “Dawn to Dusk” format into her “Journalism in the Public Interest” workshops at Allegheny College. She invited other colleges and guest speakers to join the workshop. Ohio University was one of the schools who invested resources. In 2015 Hatch invited Ohio University alumna Alysia Burton Steele, a journalism professor at University of Mississippi to speak and asked her to bring several students to participate. Her associate dean Charles Mitchell asked if they could bring the workshop down to Mississippi or alternate locations. So, Steele and her colleague Ji Hoon Heo partnered with Will Jacks, a professor at Delta State University, and they collaborated on the workshop in the Mississippi Delta – this year’s location for storytelling.

2017 Behind-The-Scenes Video

Before arriving, students communicated with teammates and divided responsibilities for their stories. Students had one day to document and an afternoon to produce. Their projects premiered at the GRAMMY Museum Mississippi for a free community event on Saturday, April 8, sponsored by the Delta Center for Culture and Learning and International Delta Blues Project.

This year, four award-winning photojournalists mentored students. Cheryl Hatch shared work covering international conflicts, Jerry Holt of the Minneapolis Star Tribune stressed the importance of covering “everyday people,” Smiley Pool, of The Dallas Morning News, shared behind-the-scene accounts of the Dallas ambush of police officers and his 20-year project of covering HIV/AIDS in Romania. National Press Photographers Association Executive Director Akili Ramsess explained the importance and benefits of joining NPPA.

Places We’ve Been