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Camera Truth: The Missouri Photo Workshop at 65

“Show truth with a camera. Ideally truth is a matter of personal integrity. In no circumstances will a posed or fake photograph be tolerated.”

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Church Step, Trenton, Missouri. 1995

Clif Edom’s words remain the credo of the Missouri Photo Workshop that he founded in 1949, and this week 45 photographers from 12 nations are gathered in the north-central Missouri town of Trenton. They are here to find and create a picture story that documents the life of this town.

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Man in Bathtub, Trenton, Missouri. 1995

No assignments are handed out. Unless photographers find their own story, pitch it, and get it approved, they will take no pictures. This is a “storytelling with a camera” workshop, and it demands independent thinking, initiative, and self-reliance.

Robert Gilka, National Geographic’s legendary director of photography, served on the faculty for decades. National Geographic Editor in Chief Chris Johns has been both student and faculty, and Sarah Leen, our director of photography, was a student with me in 1978, when the workshop was in Lebanon.

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Missouri Photo Workshop faculty Bob Gilka and Bill Strode, background, at a workshop football game. Circa 1973

Over the next few days, we’ll be focused on story discovery and development. By midweek pictures will be coming in as stories are approved. Later this week I’ll update you on the kinds of emerging stories we’re seeing. Next week, after the workshop has ended, a new website will feature all the stories, and I’ll summarize how it all went and whose work stood out.

In the meantime you can see picture stories from many previous Missouri Photo Workshops here:

Dennis Dimick is the executive editor for National Geographic magazine and has served on the Missouri Workshop faculty 16 times. Having the chance to help guide and encourage a new generation of documentary photojournalists is a yearly highlight. Follow Dennis on Twitter, Instagram, and Flickr.

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