People filed into Laura Speed Elliott Middle School on Saturday to see the work of a group of photographers who spent a week documenting life in Boonville.
The Missouri Photo Workshop, run by the Missouri School of Journalism, brings photographers to a town in Missouri for a week each year to hone their photography and storytelling skills while depicting the lives of Missourians.
This was the third time the workshop was held in Boonville. Photographers came to Boonville for the fifth Missouri Photo Workshop in 1953, and for the 50th in 1998. Photographs from those workshops were also on display, giving viewers a chance to see how Boonville changed over the years. A gallery from the 1953 workshop is on its website.
This year, thirty-nine photographers spent a week in Boonville. With some guidance from faculty editors, each photographer was given a week and 400 frames to tell a story. Da’Shaunae Jackson-Lewis, a freelance photographer from Cleveland, focused on John and Ken, a couple who have lived in Boonville for about 25 years since moving from Hawaii.
She met John on Tuesday while he was walking his dog, Aubrey, near State Fair Community College. After talking, he invited her to their home, and after visiting with them, she decided to focus on the couple for the week.
John and Ken mostly like to spend time together, she said. Spending a week in their home, she saw them garden, play the piano and keep up with politics, she said.
Stephen Swofford, a photographer for the Pueblo Chieftan in Colorado, spent the week with Marsha Tinsley, who he learned on Saturday was also photographed when the workshop came to Boonville in 1998.
“She’s so lively and joyful,” Swofford said. “She’s just wonderful.”
Swofford went with Tinsley to work at the recycling center, water aerobics class, work out at the YMCA, and a birthday party, for which she baked two cakes, he said. He was amazed by how quickly they became close, he said.
Jackson-Lewis was also amazed by how open her subjects were from the beginning. Both expected most challenging part of the workshop would be finding someone who would open their lives to the camera.
The 400-photo limit ended up being the biggest challenge for Swofford, who said he took half his allotted frames on his first day with Tinsley. The rest of the week, he had to learn to be patient, and wait for the right moments to photograph.
Both Jackson-Lewis and Swofford said they did a lot of observations to decide what moments they wanted to shoot. Swofford said that once he stopped worrying so much about missing moments, he took better photos.
“That’s one of the things, is learning that people are habitual, so you can’t really miss a moment,” Swofford said. “It’s going to happen again.”
Both photographers said they enjoyed their week in Boonville and found everyone to be welcoming. They both planned to keep in touch with the subjects they had spent a week sharing personal and intimate moments with, and said they wished they had more time.
“I could spend a year with Marsha,” Swofford said.