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November 27, 2023

Students, coaches reflect on 2023 Picture Kentucky Workshop

By Haley Simpkins

University of Kentucky journalism student Samuel Colmar lines up a shot at sunset during the Picture Kentucky Photojournalism Workshop in Frankfort, Kentucky, on Oct. 12, 2023. Photo by Carter Skaggs.

University of Kentucky journalism student Samuel Colmar lines up a shot at sunset during the Picture Kentucky Photojournalism Workshop in Frankfort, Kentucky, on Oct. 12, 2023. Photo by Carter Skaggs.

The University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media, housed in the College of Communication and Information, hosted the annual Picture Kentucky Photojournalism Workshop on Oct. 11-14 in Frankfort, Kentucky. Twenty students attended the workshop and were guided by professional coaches from across the country, including Pete Souza, former chief official White House photographer for Barack Obama’s eight-year presidency.

Picture Kentucky is an immersive course experience that allows students to spend four days documenting the people and places of Kentucky. Student attendees randomly select a story assignment from a hat and are then paired with a professional, volunteer coach to help them navigate how to tell their stories. Students then spend the remainder of the workshop following and photographing their subjects in and around Franklin County to produce a final photo story.

Sydney Turner, a senior integrated strategic communication major, spent her time photographing Lowell Newsome, a preacher, construction contractor and raccoon hunter in Bald Knob, Kentucky.

“My first day of the workshop I drew his name out of a hat, and six hours later I was running through cornfields and creeks with a camera following Lowell on his hunt,” Turner said.

Turner said she walked away from the workshop with new insights on everything from how to operate new photography equipment to the basics of raccoon hunting.

“I learned how to make meaningful images for a story, the importance of connecting with your subjects, how to use new camera gear, areas I need to improve on as a photographer and of course, all about raccoon hunting,” Turner said. “The immersive experience of working on this feature story for four days was transformative in my knowledge of photojournalism."

After shooting, Turner and her fellow attendees would have a one-on-one review and critique session with their assigned coach to prepare for the next day’s shoot.

Kristen Roberts, a junior journalism student, shared in the workshop’s wrap-up video that prior to Picture Kentucky she was uncomfortable behind the camera, however, through these daily check-ins with her coach Matt Detrich, senior video consultant for Indiana University Health, she grew more confident in her photography skills.

“I love Matt; he’s very kind,” Roberts said. “He goes through every step of everything with you and talks to you about what you like best and what he thinks."

Detrich said in the video that he could see Roberts's growth throughout the workshop.

“She’s open to anything I’ve said,” Detrich said. “She looks you right in the eye; she’s absorbing it. She’s the one on my team who has gone out and reproduced the most things that I’d like to see her practice.”

Turner along with four other students were coached by Pete Souza, an award-winning photojournalist and author known for his role as former chief official White House photographer. While this is Souza’s first year volunteering as a coach with Picture Kentucky, his five decades of experience and expertise served as a tremendous resource for his mentees, Turner and fellow mentee Abbey Cutrer said.

“The advice that he has been giving is very constructive criticism, which I can take,” Cutrer, a junior journalism student, said in the recap video. “He doesn’t crop photos when he is editing, which has helped me shoot more intentionally. I look at all four corners when I’m shooting, which I do typically, but far more when it is Pete who is going to be looking over my photos.”

In addition to their assigned coaches, participants also had the opportunity to hear from the rest of the coaches during evening lectures and Q&A sessions.

“All participants, coaches and staff were fully invested in the learning process and our photo stories at the end of the workshop are a testament to that,” Turner said.

David Stephenson, workshop director and assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Media, said he felt this year’s workshop went well, and he is looking forward to next year.

“This year's workshop was one of the best we've had in years,” Stephenson said. “The students, the coaches, the staff and the people of Franklin County were so dedicated and passionate. It left us all energized despite the week's exhaustion."

Watch the full recap video of the 2023 Picture Kentucky Workshop and view this year’s photo gallery here. Learn more about Picture Kentucky at

Picture Kentucky is a Kentucky Kernel workshop and is supported by UK School of Journalism and Media, UK College of Communication and Information, Kentucky State University's Land Grant Program and has sponsors in Sony and Canon. 

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