Documenting Kentucky for over four decades

Western Kentucky University’s Mountain Workshops grew from a class field trip in 1976 into one of the nation’s oldest and largest one-week training camps for visual storytelling.
Scroll to the bottom to view previous documented communities.


Since 1976, the Mountain Workshops has been gathering stories of our shared history. This unprecedented visual collection of a rich past reveals the everyday life of the people and places that make our Commonwealth unique and truly, one-of-a-kind.


In 1976, two Western Kentucky University faculty members took a dozen photojournalism students into eastern Kentucky and Tennessee to document the 11 remaining one-room schools there.

The teachers didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the beginning of an annual trek designed to sharpen students’ skills while documenting small towns in Kentucky and sometimes Tennessee.

Over time the effort morphed into the Mountain Workshops — five concurrent workshops that fine-tune photography, picture-editing, video story telling, data visualization and time-lapse skills of college students and mid-career professionals in an intensive weeklong effort that documents a town and its surrounding countryside.

WKU faculty members are joined by volunteer shooting, editing and writing coaches who travel here from across the country — from The New York Times, from the Los Angeles Times, from National Geographic and a host of other venues — to guide trainees and produce content for a photo exhibit, several multimedia productions, and a book of 100-plus pages.

From their humble beginnings of travel with cameras, black-and-white film and sleeping bags, workshops staff now spend months planning and setting up sophisticated facilities with state-of-the-art computing and digital imaging equipment.

Below is a list of the communities that have been documented since the Mountain began. A book has been published every year starting in 1997.