A Community Devoted: Leitchfield, Grayson County

The School of Media is proud to announce the opening of the latest exhibition A Community Devoted at the Gallery in Jody Richards Hall.

The storied Mountain Workshops, run by the WKU Photojournalism program, completed its 47th year of documenting communities across the Commonwealth this past October and the participants, faculty and staff invite you to take a few moments of your time to explore the people and places that make up Grayson County. It is said, everyone has a story to tell, there are 47 of them waiting for you to see.

JRH Gallery Through February 17

  • M-W: 9:00 am – 9:00 pm
  • TH-F: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm
  • Gallery is closed when WKU is closed
  • Free parking available in Chestnut St. lot at the end of Regents street after 4:00 pm

A Community Devoted: Leitchfield, Grayson County

Nestled between Rough River and Nolin lakes, Grayson County is one of Kentucky’s overlooked gems. More than 24,000 people call it home. Many have generations-old ties to Leitchfield and the farmland around communities such as Caneyville, Clarkson, Big Clifty and Short Creek. But newcomers are welcome, too. Many have pulled off the Western Kentucky Parkway and never looked back.

In 2022, during one week in October, 53 visual journalists from across the country and around the globe traveled to this small town to document the people and places that make-up this rural community just north of Mammoth Cave National Park. A small army of editors, producers and staff, many connected with Western Kentucky University’s School of Media, welcomed them and assisted in honing their craft. This gallery is a representation of the work produced during that week.


Presentation of Fleischaker/Green Awards

Western Kentucky University’s School of Media will present the 2022 Fleischaker/Greene Award for Courageous International Reporting on Monday (Nov. 14) to journalists covering the war in Ukraine.

Four-time Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Carol Guzy and Editor-in-chief Olga Rudenko and the staff of the Kyiv Independent in Ukraine have been selected as this year’s recipients of the prestigious award. The awards ceremony will begin at 4 p.m. at the Gary Ransdell Hall Auditorium.

Guzy’s career as a photographer spans more than 40 years, from a staff member at the Miami Herald, to The Washington Post and currently as a contract photographer for Zuma Press. Her current work is documenting the war in Ukraine.

Rudenko and her staff of 32 journalists at the Kyiv Independent have not shied away from telling the stories of their war-torn Ukraine.

Guzy will accept the award by Zoom from Ukraine where she continues to report for Zuma Press. It is not yet determined if Rudenko will be able to join the Zoom presentation.

Gabi Broekema

Gabi Broekema a senior in the WKU Photojournalism program returned to her family’s roots while documenting for six-months on an internship with MLive: Kalamazoo Gazette Branch in Southwest Michigan this past year.  Before returning for her final capstone class in the photojournalism program, she is spending a semester abroad with the  Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus, Denmark, continuing her studies in photography. Here are a few of her photographs from this past year.

SLICES: A Look Back At The Way We Were

From the archives of the Louisville Courier-Journal, this collection of 57 images that span six decades, document the seemingly mundane to significant events of our collective past. The Courier-Journal staff created a record of history that became immortalized in the power of photography. As time marches forward, these images freeze a layer of humanity in the click of a shutter revealing to us how much we have changed, and just perhaps, how we have not.


M-W: 9:00 am – 9:00 pm

TH-F: 9:00 am – 4:00 pm


The 57 images on display as well as many more can be seen in a book published by Press Syndication Group and can be purchased here.

Readers of the Courier Journal picked up their newspapers on January 5, 1896, and found something they had never seen before. There, splashed across the front of the third section of the newspapers, were photographs – not the lithographs they had come to expect in their paper – honest-to-God, half-tone photos of state-owned buildings around the commonwealth.

That was nine months before the New York Times began running photographs in the pages of its Sunday Magazine and years before either newspaper would put photos on their front pages. Before that, newspapers generally used hand-engraved lithographic prints to illustrate their stories, but the advent of the half-tone printing process, for the first time, began to bring the staid old publications with long columns of gray type to life. It was that page that ushered in a new era for the Courier Journal.

The story that accompanied the Courier Journal’s picture package that Sunday morning, buried at the bottom of the page, was almost certainly included as nothing more than a vehicle to show off the Courier Journal’s new technology – the process of using tiny dots to reproduce photos – that allowed it to bring stories to its readers like never before. The photos hinted at what the Courier Journal would become, with its corps of photographers crisscrossing the state to bring the stories of Kentucky back to its readers in a way writers never could It started with static photos of buildings, nature and mug shots of people that appeared in the third section of the paper – later called the “Half-tone Section” because of its heavy reliance on photos.

As the ability to print photographs faster and with better clarity advanced, so did photography. In years that followed, cameras went from using glass plates, to George Eastman’s roll film that first allowed for photography without a tripod, to finally in 1925, the invention of the 35mm camera. The newspaper eventually introduced color photographs to its Sunday magazine and then in the early 1990s to the newspaper itself.

In the early years, the newspaper’s photography staff wasn’t much to speak of. When reporter William Burke “Skeets” Miller won the Pulitzer Prize for reporting in 1925 after he crawled into Sand Cave in Southern Kentucky to interview trapped cave explorer Floyd Collins,he – and not a photographer – was given a camera to take the photos inside the cave. Over the years, though, the newspaper developed a dedicated photo staff that served both the morning Courier Journal and its sister publication, the afternoon Louisville Times. And with the evolution of cameras came the evolution of the Courier Journal’s great team of photographers. By the mid-1980s that staff had grown to more than 30 photographers, editors and laboratory technicians who were largely based in Louisville but who traveled to all corners of the state and beyond at a moment’s notice to cover everything from political campaigns to mine disasters to floods to life.

For more than 30 years, the staff was led by Billy Davis, the longtime director of photography who was most known for his aerial photography – shot from a series of six airplanes that the Courier Journal owned between 1953 and the mid-1990s, according to C. Thomas Hardin, who succeeded Al Allen in leading the photo staff.

It was in 1953 that Davis, an accomplished pilot who first photographed Louisville from the sky during the 1937 Ohio River flood when he was working for the Chattanooga News, convinced Courier Journal President Barry Bingham Sr., Publisher Mark Ethridge and Vice President Lisle Baker that the photo staff needed an airplane to travel the state and get shots from high above.

“We could get anywhere in the state in less than an hour and a half” former director of photography Hardin said. “It was our bureau in the sky”

Through the 1970s and 1980s, the Courier Journal photography staff either won or helped win three Pulitzer Prizes for the newspaper. The first came in 1976 when it won the award for feature photography for its coverage of forced busing and the integration of Jefferson County’s public schools. The next came four years later when reporter Joel Brinkley and photographer Jay Mather teamed up to win the Pulitzer Prize for international reporting for their stories and images of the refugee crisis unfolding in Cambodia because of the brutal rule of the Khmer Rouge.

And then in 1989, the photography staff shared a Pulitzer Prize with the newspaper’s reporting and editing staffs for their coverage of the Carroll County bus crash. The accident, among the worst in U.S. history, killed 27 people and injured 34 others when drunken driver Larry Mahoney plowed his pickup truck into an old school bus owned by the Radcliff Assembly of God Church that was returning from a youth group trip to Kings Island amusement Park near Cincinnati.

The photographs they and other Courier Journal photographers shot over the years both lift your spirit and break your heart. They tell stories of life and death. They teach us about the famous and the unknown. The extraordinary and the mundane. Many are beautiful in their simplicity, brilliant in their complexity, and they’re all, frankly, just wonderful to look at.

A book like this wouldn’t be complete without Stewart Bowman’s scene-setting photos of the Bluegrass region with the horses and barns and fences and all their iconic beauty. Nor would it seem right to publish this work without Davis aerial shot of the North Fork of the Kentucky River enveloping the city of Hazard and a smaller nearby community during the floods of 1963.

There are photos of young, thin, beautiful Elvis. And there’s an older, jump-suit-wearing Elvis in his decline. Baryshnikov and Beach Boys. Mick Jagger and Elton John. And James Brown. Bill Monroe. Aretha

There is history – like Charles Lindbergh, his darkened face visible in the cockpit of the Spirit of St. Louis parked on the tarmac at Louisville’s Bowman Field. And presidents from Franklin Roosevelt through Donald J. Trump.

Some of the photos are shot in a brief window while others show the incredible access granted the photographers and the painstaking hours of sitting, waiting, for the perfect shot. The perfect moment.

Sadly, many earlier photos you won’t see here were destroyed in the 1937 flood. Still many of the older negatives that survived the flood or were shot in the years shortly after are blistering and lost to time. But so many of the photos live on. And they tell stories. Our stories. The stories of our fathers and mothers. And their fathers and mothers.

Whether it’s a car with its rear end hanging from a chain and a mechanic poised with a steam gun to clean it after a flood, whether it’s people from a protestant church handling snakes in rural Kentucky or the body of a man who leaped to his death from a building in downtown Louisville, the photos do the job that words alone can’t do.

There’s a soldier mourning over a flag-draped coffin in one photo and a soldier – pint of Seagram’s whisky in hand – laying a big celebratory smooch on a woman in another.

Some of the most striking photos, however, are the ones that simply tell a story of everyday life, ones that don’t focus on big, important events or big, important people. They are the ones that don’t complement a story but tell a story all their own. A master of that was Pam Spaulding, who began photographing a young lawyer and his family for a newspaper project in 1977 and continues to photograph the family to this day. The images she made of the McGarvey family – including one with the mother lecturing one son and holding another while the family dog is on the exam table in the veterinarian’s office – could be a scene from any of our lives.

It was the result of painstaking work and hours upon hours of sitting and waiting, and it’s a project like none other in the history of photojournalism

“I used to tell photographers, ‘Don’t go in and feel like you have to entertain. Go in, be nice and be boring,” Hardin said.

Bill Luster’s fabulous shot of grannies – both embarrassed and intrigued – at a Chippendales show at the Toy Tiger Lounge and Hardin’s photo of former Gov. A. B. “Happy” Chandler greeting a voter in the middle of a Western Kentucky street, are both examples of photographers positioning themselves in the right place and waiting for the right time to press the shutter. Many of the photographers in these pages have gone on to work for publications known for their photographs, like National Geographic and LIFE Magazine, while others have spent their entire careers at the Courier Journal. And many of them continue to make incredible images that grace the pages of the Courier Journal today.

Our 2022 Senior Exhibition

At the end of each school year, we ask our capstone PJ436 students to select one photo that means the most to them from their time here at WKUPJ and to tell us something about the image.  We hope you spend some time with the work of these talented alumni, it is no easy feat to earn a degree from WKUPJ.

Brenna Pepke

Memphis, Tennessee | Photojournalism major; Studio Arts BFA


  • Artist Residency Boyd Station, Kentucky
  • Creative Director, SHOW&TELL, Kentucky
  • Artist Residency Azule, North Carolina


As the COVID-19 pandemic lock down was at its’ peak, I was in a studio lighting class. However, without access to campus and therefore the studio, I was forced to experiment with more creative portraits that were created within my own home. Although it was incredibly challenging to be in school during the pandemic, I was able to delve into an un-journalistic portrait series revolving around what I imagine various colors’ personalities might be.


Jordan Matthis

Owensboro, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Advertising major


  • Falling Creek Camp, North Carolina
  • Image West, Kentucky

After being sent home from COVID in March of 2020, Jordan Matthis was enrolled in Intro to Studio Lighting in which she was challenged to learn technical lighting skills through weekly zoom classes and photographing herself. This photograph is part of a 5-studio portrait final, where she replicated famous paintings and dedicated a portrait to the 2020 graduates who lost their important chapter of graduation.


While being in the pandemic and locked in my house, my creativity and motivation hit a low. While seeing everything diminished and halted by the shutdown, I took it on myself to produce something that is meaningful, impactful, and represents a portion of time of graduation. I find this photograph now to be very sentimental to me as my college career comes to an end and seeing how the world has changed.

In 2019, Jordan Matthis created a series of iconography and photography campaign posters to address and create awareness of the issue of sexual assault towards young adults. Western Kentucky students Hannah Reed and Daniel Garcia volunteered to model for the campaign to showcase that both genders can be affected/silenced by sexual assault.


These campaign posters are important to me because it was the first project between my two majors, advertising, and photojournalism, that I could intertwine my technical and creative skillset of photography and studio lighting with my knowledge of strategy and communication to connect to a wide audience over a sensitive topic.


Zane Meyer-Thornton

Los Angeles, California | Photojournalism major; Sociology minor


  • Cincinnati Enquirer, Ohio
  • Native American Journalists Association, Fellowhip/Remote

Ellie Banaszynski, 5, has a snack between games of Killerqueen on Sunday, June 20, 2021, at Wondercade Cincy. By having only classic arcade games, Wondercade Cincy is helping a new generation of people enjoy games from years past.


When I first got to this arcade, I thought to myself “what a nightmare of a place to photograph”. All the windows were covered, which made available light extremely scarce. As I walked down an aisle and looked to my left, Ellie’s infatuation with the game stopped me in my tracks and reminded me to never overlook a situation.

Sarah Anderson is swarmed by goats during her goat yoga class at Westbrook Farms in Bowling Green, Ky. on April 17, 2021. The class was organized by Be Happy Yoga and Westbrook Farms to combine the calming effects of yoga with the joyful experience of playing with goats.


Photographing a goat yoga class was something I would have never imagined doing but represents why I love photojournalism. Inhabiting these light slivers of the world where people find true joy will forever be why I enjoy this craft.


Kennedy Gott

Bowling Green, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Philosophy minor

During weekly Sunday meetings at Faith Works Sober Living Home, the women living in the home reflect on their week, their struggles, their success, and their emotions. Regina Hensley (second to the right) relapsed after losing her sun to cancer on August 9, 2015. She gave into her addiction to alcohol through these tough times; yet, in September 2020, she chose the road to recovery and moved into Faith Works Sober Living Home in January 2021. “I can’t remember anything from the past two years. But I remember everything since September. Since I’ve been sober. Since I’ve lived in this house,” Hensley said.


This was the first story that I did where I got completely out of my comfort zone. I had been photographing family members since I started my photojournalism journey in the middle of the COVID pandemic, and this was the first story that I did where I got to connect to and get to know someone that I had never met before. This story made me realize the importance of photojournalism and the impact that it makes on others and the world. The ladies of the Faith Works told me that they were happy to have me and share their stories because “most people don’t care about people like them,” and they appreciated that I did care.


Lauren and Lucas Moore got married on October 2nd, 2021. It was a day filled with tears, laughter, and lots of dancing. They did a huge sparkler send-off at the end of the night, where the sparkler smoke filled the air and lit the sky in orange, red and yellow colors.


Wedding photography has been a huge part of my photojournalism journey. When I got my first wedding inquiry for a wedding on August 8th, 2020, I was baffled. This was something that had been a goal of mine since I picked up a camera. After I photographed that wedding, the wedding inquiries started flooding into my email inbox. I photographed 3 weddings in 2020, 25 in 2021 and have 16 planned for 2022. Photographing weddings has taught me a lot about how to connect with people, how to take pretty and meaningful photos and how to hustle. I am thankful for each of my couples that I have had the honor to photograph and get to know.

Photographing weddings also taught me that it is okay to change my dreams and goals. I came into the photojournalism department at WKU with tunnel vision that I was going to be a wedding photographer for the rest of my life and that was it. As I learned the value of photojournalism, I realized that there might be more out there for me than wedding photography, and I am open to seeing where life takes me after graduation.


Addison Leboutillier

Owensboro, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Digital Advertising minor


  • Center for Gifted Studies, Kentucky

The Pastor of Little Flock Church in Owensboro, Ky sings praises after Nala Olou (left) announced that she had finally gained her United States citizenship after ten long years of appeals.


For me, this photo was one of the first times that I felt truly pushed out of my comfort zone. It was for our Faith assignment freshman year, and I didn’t have many leads going into it. However, I remembered a small wooden church sitting in a field just off the bypass that I had seen several times while driving between Bowling Green and Owensboro. One day I went, and I could not have felt more welcomed. It gave me an insight for the first time into how important it is to just stop and ask, there can be good images wherever you go.

Stars trail across the sky on Saturday, October 9, 2021.


This was one of my favorite nights over the four years I spent in this program. Our class had the opportunity to go film star trails together in October of 2021. Whenever I look back at this composite, I think of the four-plus hours spent sitting together in the dark trying in vain to keep the moisture off our cameras. Yet despite all the frustration, it was a reminder of why this program is special. In the middle of the night when no sane person would be awake, we were all up together. For no reason other than wanting to try, we stayed out in that soggy field pushing each other to create something beautiful.


Sam Mallon

Silver Spring, Maryland | Photojournalism major; Gender and Women’s Studies minor


  • Lexington Herald Leader, Kentucky
  • Friends of Acadia, Maine

“I thought a lot about Wild Earth being this space where we don’t just say what’s wrong with the world, we really show what can be right with the world,” Heather Patrick said, a co-founder of Wild Earth Farm and Sanctuary. Patrick homeschools her daughter, Everly, 5, and the two spend most of their days learning and playing outdoors.


This photo is from a story that was a bit of a passion project of mine: I happened upon Wild Earth Farm and Sanctuary on Facebook one day and immediately knew that I needed to get out to Eastern Kentucky to capture the essence of the place. Co-founder Heather Patrick was gracious enough to let me into her and her daughter’s lives whenever I was able to make trips out there that semester, and the entire experience taught me so much not only about who I am and want to be as a storyteller, but as a person. When I look back at this photograph, I am immediately reminded of why I love this craft so much; and I can’t help but grin to match Everly’s contagious smile.

Jockey Chris Landeros is speckled in dirt after finishing seventh riding King’s Mischief in Race 14, the final race of the evening at Churchill Downs following the Kentucky Derby on May 1, 2021, in Louisville, Kentucky.


Photographing the Kentucky Derby is an experience unlike any other — the energy that exists at Churchill Downs that first weekend of May is surreal, contagious, and beautifully bizarre. It might be a sporting event, but the intersection of light, color and personality that erupts throughout the entire stadium is any feature photographer’s dream. This is one of the last photos I took after last year’s race day; most photographers had retreated to the media room by that point, but I simply couldn’t peel away — there’s no fourteen-hour workday I look forward to the way I do the Derby.