Chris Kohley: Experience comes in the field

Internships and on-campus staff positions has provided  WKU Photojournalism Senior Chris Kohley experience and opportunities to advance his skills beyond the classroom. Interning for the the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA Today-Network Wisconsin, and this summer’s internship at the St. outs Post-Dispatch has helped propel him towards graduation. Chris as also been on staff at the College Heights Herald and currently photographs for the Western Kentucky University’s Athletics program.  Here are a few of his images from the past year.


Dolly Jo Heath takes a moment to visit her nephew Cpl. James E. Carter who served in the Persian Gulf at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis on Friday, May 22, 2020.

WKU forward Ansley Cate (20) falls on top of Southern Miss forward Ariel Diaz (3) while fighting for the ball at the WKU soccer complex on Sept. 21, 2019.

WKU’s Sophia Cerino (23) celebrates a point with Lauren Matthews (5) in a match against the UTSA Roadrunners at WKU Hilltoppers, October 20, 2019 in Diddle Arena.

WKU center Seth Joest (67) readies himself in the locker room before taking on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles on November 23, 2019 in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Mountain Workshops announces a day of visual celebration

Mountain Sessions

Saturday, September 12, nine amazing visual journalists, free and open to the public – and a chance to win camera gear. What more could you ask for?

For 44 years, the Mountain Workshops have educated hundreds of participants to become better storytellers by working in small groups with some of the best visual journalists in the country. The rich tradition of the Mountain has produced photographers and videographers that have gone on to win Pulitzer Prizes, publish books and land jobs as visual storytellers nation wide.

This year has given the Workshops a chance to offer a different program for a wider audience, no experience necessary. On September 12, the Mountain Workshops are proud to present Mountain Sessions, a one-day line up of speakers that will inform, inspire and ignite passions for visual storytelling during these challenging times.

Photojournalism and video will be represented in three different forums moderated by leaders in their industries. Learn how some of the top professionals in photojournalism and documentary film are covering the significant stories of this year. Hear from experts and the masters on how to continue to hone your craft during this intensive one-day educational webinar. You can RSVP for just one or all three of these sessions, select the RSVP button from our web site and choose your session(s).

Since its beginnings, the Mountain Workshops has been at the heart of the WKU Photojournalism program’s educational mission. It remains the program’s best example of what can be achieved in journalism education outside of the classroom with the support of journalism professionals donating thousands of hours of their time and expertise, generous sponsors, and a dedicated staff of WKU Photojournalism teachers and students. This experience will be no exception to our educational standard.

To see detailed information on each guest and to register for the sessions, please visit our website.

Hope you can join us on the virtual Mountain.

Our 2020 Senior Single Photo 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. Obviously, it is a powerful thing to graduate from our program, even in this era of social distancing and COVID-19 – we could not be more proud of this year’s seniors.

Madihah Abri

Louisville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major; Spanish minor

Shante Parker & LA Rogers

Both of these images were taken a few weeks apart from each other, and looking back on them I realize how important they are to me. This was the moment everything “clicked” after going through various obstacles, including having to leave WKU and then finding a way to come back. I felt my confidence starting to fade.

I have always had a passion for storytelling and was in my opinion becoming a decent editorial photographer prior to having to leave WKU. When I came back I felt lost and “not good enough.” That is until I was able to take PJ 439, Advanced Studio Lighting.

While taking these images, I not only realized my self-worth as a photographer but also my hidden desire to own my own studio. I stepped out of the world of editorial photography and into a world of fashion and portraiture. I developed a love for blending colors and shaping the light around different skin tones to make the desired feature pop.

In the studio I’m still able to be a storyteller and give representation to those who do not have that power; but now I can do it in a more creative and “Me” style. The portraits of Shante and LA allowed me to grow as a person and a photographer by guiding my way back to what I lost – my personal drive.

Phoebe Alcala

Sacramento, California | Photojournalism major, Sociology minor

The advanced dancers of the San Diego Academy of Ballet prepare backstage for their yearly performance of The Nutcracker on Nov. 23, 2018.

Reflecting back on my years at Western, I can’t think of a shoot that was more physically and mentally exhausting than this one. I was on my feet for hours on end making sure that I captured every moment possible, foregoing water breaks in favor of shooting the countless tutus and elaborate stretching routines that seemed to be around every corner. Here, I discovered that there is something magical about being behind the scenes of a ballet performance. Elegance and chaos collide as dancers hurry to apply makeup and search for costumes while surrounded by blur of tulle, glitter and dance moms. All goes quiet as soon as the curtain rises, and the dancers look perfectly polished. The audience members know nothing of the mayhem that’s going on behind the scenes; all eyes are on the seemingly effortless movements of the dancers.

To me, the fine line between elegance and chaos reflected in this image mirrors the job of a photojournalist so perfectly. Blood, sweat and a whole lot of tears serve as the foundation for success. This was one of the most challenging and rewarding shoots of my PJ career thus far. Nothing is effortless, whether it be ballet or photography – you must be pushed to your limits to be able to see what you can truly accomplish.

Michelle Hanks

Chattanooga, Tennessee | Photojournalism major, Sociology minor


  • The Washington Post, Washington, D.C.
  • Louisville Public Media, Louisville, Ky.
  • Interlochen Center for the Arts, Interlochen, Mich.

Natasha, 24, frantically gets ready to leave her home to see her daughter for her weekly foster care visit in Bowling Green, Kentucky. She arrived with only minutes to spare before the visitation would have been canceled. She had missed the last three visits.

This image is part of a photo story that documents Natasha as she attempts to gain custody of her infant child due to a drug charge. Despite her good intentions, Natasha continued to use meth while she waited for her court sentencing.

This was the most ethically challenging and sensitive story I’ve worked on during my time in the program. Natasha gave me a lot of trust to let me photograph her while she was in a very vulnerable state of her life. I felt a huge weight of responsibility to tell her story with empathy, yet also with accuracy and fairness. I’ve lost touch with Natasha, but I still often think about how she is doing since we last saw each other.

Bowling Green, Kentucky’s Greyhound bus station has stayed the same for the last 29 years, yet new people come and go every day.

I made this video during the fall semester of my senior year. At the time I lacked a lot of confidence in myself to tell a compelling story about this bus station, a place that looked so mundane from the surface level. But with the guidance and encouragement of my professor, Tim Broekema, I surprised myself and made one of my most cherished short docs to date.

I took away two lessons from making this short doc. I learned how important it is to share your work with others while it’s in the “in progress” phase. I am one who tends to avoid sharing work when it’s still messy and unpolished, but if I had not come to my professor before the short doc deadline the video would not have turned out as strong as it did. The second lesson I learned is that it’s possible as a filmmaker to create something interesting without having the most interesting footage. As visual journalist Eric Maierson once wisely said, it’s not about the cards you are dealt with but how you play them.

Morgan Hornsby

McKee, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, History minor


  • The Gallup Independent, Gallup, N.M.
  • Tulsa World, Tulsa, Okla.
  • Naples Daily News, Naples, Fla.
  • The Marshall Project, New York, N.Y.

Carolyn Williams and her great-granddaughter, Adalynn, stand in an embrace at Carolyn’s home in Claremore, Okla. on August 10, 2018. Twenty-one years after her daughter, Angelina, was removed from her care, Shaunte Gordon received a Facebook message from her daughter asking to meet again. When they were reunited, Shaunte brought her mother, Carolyn, and Angelina brought her daughter, Adalynn. For the first time, Carolyn saw her granddaughter and great-granddaughter. “Four generations restored,” Carolyn said.

I made this photo of Carolyn and Adalynn while we were taking photos of them with the rest of their family. When I noted the similarity of their hairstyles, the two of them happily excused the others from the frame to get one by themselves. Their bond was special — deeply ingrained and apparent despite not knowing each other for much of their lives.

When I received the internship at the Tulsa World, I did not know I would spend most of my free time that summer working on a story about incarceration. Before that, criminal justice wasn’t something I thought about very often. My first assignment was to photograph a prison graduation ceremony. After that, I wanted to learn more about the criminal justice system and its impact, so I started working on a project about the effect of incarceration on families in Oklahoma.

The people who let me into their lives and shared their stories with me that summer changed my life forever. When my subjects put photos in frames, or when the stories ran in the paper, I felt more purposeful than I had in my life. Since then, telling stories of incarceration has been my primary focus as a photographer. Working on these stories, I feel a greater purpose for all the skills I’ve learned over my time at Western.

Nic Huey

Atlanta, Georgia | Photojournalism major, Folklore minor


  • Beam Imagination, Atlanta, Ga. (two summers)

Mason Ashby, 9, and his great uncle, Earl Ashby, spend time together at Cedar Ridge Speedway in Morgantown, Ky. The Ashby family has operated the half-mile dirt racetrack for decades, but they do more than sell tickets. The Ashby’s are one of the fastest families in Kentucky, with Mason regularly beating drivers twice his age.

Cameras have always given me an excuse to visit unfamiliar places. For these images, I brought out a large format camera and set up a white seamless to make portraits of characters at the track. It is pretty special to have a total stranger sit for a portrait; it gives you a reason to be curious, ask questions and learn about their life.

This is one of the many instances that solidified my love for the intersection of journalism and photography. The idea of creating images that can live on and become a part of visual history is a constant source of inspiration for me, and days like this day out at the racetrack constantly remind me of the joy of documentary photography.

Larry Duncan leaves the house every night after sundown and doesn’t return until the early morning. His goal? Getting students home safe.

Ever since the first ride-share companies started popping up, I was fascinated with idea of two strangers coming together in a car for a trip. It is a temporary and random intersection of two lives, one that ends as quick as it begins. What conversations take place? What ideas are shared? When I came across Larry’s Instagram page, I knew it was my chance to find out. For several nights I rode along with Larry and his passengers documenting the strange reality of ride-share.

With documentary video, I love to be a fly on the wall. This project allowed me to do just that, even getting in-car footage from Larry’s dash cam. It was awesome to document the seemingly innocuous occurrences of Larry’s ride-share routine through the early hours of each morning, and to see the bonds he forms with his passengers as their lives temporarily cross paths.

BreAnna Luker

Fenton, Missouri | Photojournalism major, Marketing minor

Amanda Young, 30, hugs her niece during the “baby” ballet class at Dance Images in Bowling Green, Ky. Young has been dancing since she was 5 and teaches kids and adults of all ages in dance and fitness. The girls got to play dress up with the ‘”big girl” costumes at the end of practice.

After 18 years of spending my days and nights in a dance studio, I walked in with a camera bag on my shoulder instead of my dance bag. I picked up my camera and found myself lost in combining my two passions – dance and photography.

For me, this image is more than just a young girl hugging her dance teacher. This image embodies everything that dance means to me. When I captured this moment, I saw myself in each of the young girls. The little girl in the red dress is admiring the beautiful tutu she hopes to wear one day. The little girl in purple watches herself dance, not caring what anyone else thinks. The little girl in yellow just soaks in every moment around her. The little girl in green hugs her teacher, someone who she admires and looks up to. Dance taught me so many incredible qualities, and I find myself integrating them in my photographic work; looking to future possibilities; not getting wrapped up in what others think of my work; soaking in every moment that I carry my camera; and continuing to be inspired by my peers.

I think that’s why I love this image so much. It took me me back to so many unforgettable memories of mine. This image showed me that as photojournalists, that’s what we do. We capture moments. We capture memories.

Emily Moses

Nolensville, Tennessee | Photojournalism major, Geography minor


  • Interlochen Center for the Arts, Interlochen, Mich.
  • Friends of Acadia, Bar Harbor, Maine

Avery Rolett, 5, waits to be buckled up in the passenger seat of his dad’s pickup truck outside their farm in Scottsville, Ky. His parents, Jackson and Jordan Rolett, are first- generation farmers who started StoneHouse Market Farm less than a year ago. Jackson helped start the Double Dollars program at the Bowling Green Community Farmers Market, an initiative to make local food an affordable option for the entire community. The Rolett’s receive SNAP benefits to feed their children because the farm does not provide them with a living wage.

I took this photo right before leaving my subject’s house in the fall of my junior year. That semester, I was enrolled in PJ 334, Picture Stories, a class that gave me clarity that photojournalism was far more than a hobby for me. The class gave me the opportunity to get to know families that I might not have met otherwise.

During this class, I pursued many environmental stories that involve farming and food insecurity, an interest that is rooted in me from being raised on a farm. The Rolett family not only allowed me into their home, they shared their passion for farming sustainably to create a better world for their children to grow up in. The images I created in this story of the Rolett boys running around barefoot on their farm made me nostalgic for stomping in the creek on my family farm with my little brother. Although I was telling the story of the Rolett family, I found glimpses of my own story in theirs.

Grace Pritchett

Evansville, Indiana | Photojournalism major, Advertising minor


  • The Cincinnati Enquirer, Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Interlochen Center for the Arts, Interlochen, Mich.

Left to right, Daeanna Kidd, Lanae Matthews and Takoryah Green play at the Parker Bennett Community Center, which offers free after-school care to children in Bowling Green, Ky. Located in the housing authority district, most of the children who attend come from low-income families. Jkeyah Patterson, a recreation assistant for the community center, says, “Over here, it’s low income, so they are going to appreciate more.”

As a photojournalism student, I eventually realized that despite my shy nature I could talk to anyone as long as I had my camera in hand. It was like my super power, and I loved it. Not only did I get to meet new people on a daily basis for my assignments, but I also got to capture the raw emotion of moments in their lives.

On the day I took this photo outside the Parker Bennett Community Center, I had been tasked with finding a story for my Picture Stories class. I was photographing these kids all hanging out on the jungle gym, not feeling like I was making much progress, and then all of a sudden they turned. A sea of faces glanced in unison at something happening behind me. I am still not sure what they were looking at because I was jumping into action. I started pressing down on the shutter and adjusting the composition as much as I could before the moment was over.

Although it did not turn out to be a perfect picture by any means, this photo represents a turning point in my relationship with photojournalism. I realized that not every moment had to be “loud” to have impact. The little in-between moments could be just as engaging, just as storytelling. More important, this photo reminded me that I could give people a voice by telling their story; that is what matters most.

Dalton Puckett

Buffalo, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Citizenship and Social Justice minor


  • Philmont Scout Ranch, Cimarron, N.M.

Terry Key, right, is the founder of the Edgehill Bike Club in Nashville, Tennessee. After being forced to move to Edgehill by the East Nashville Flood of 2010, he quickly realized that the community needed change.

“When I first moved here, I took a kid a mile away to a park (he’d never been there before). He was 13 years old. I was like ‘Man! You ain’t never been out the neighborhood?'” Key knew what the kid was talking about though. “I was that kid that could never get out of that damn neighborhood. Until I got me a bicycle.”

Key wants to do more than just give kids bikes. He wants to give them something to feel good about. “If you can make a kid smile, you can make a kid to be a friend,” Key said. He is making the kind of difference in the community that he knew he could.

This image was a part of my very first story in my PJ 334 Picture Stories class. Our first assignment was particularly challenging because we only had a week to complete it. This image is important to me not only because I was able to spend time with Terry and Abde, but it also showed me that I could rally under an unexpected crunch for time and capture a story that was meaningful.

Lydia Schweickart

Louisville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Sociology minor

Rachael practices her pole dancing routine at home in preparation for an upcoming competition in Myrtle Beach, Fla. On Rachael’s nights off from work, she stays home and takes care of her son Gabriel. Her shifts at Tattle Tale’s Gentleman’s Club start at 6:00 p.m. and end at 2:00 a.m. Rachael’s fiancee has expressed his disapproval of Rachael working at a club, and he is expecting her to quit soon after her pole dancing competition. Rachael explained that even though she will be quitting at the club, she will never stop pole dancing because she enjoys it too much.

This photo was made up of a lot of firsts for me. It was part of my first ever photo story. It was the first time I went to a subject’s house. And it was the first time I had a subject truly allow me in to her life and trust me. It was this photo story that made me realize I never wanted to take that trust for granted. It was this photo story that helped shape my outlook on photojournalism for my next three years at WKU.

Having Rachael be so open with me made me realize the importance of being a human being first and a photographer second. All of my successes at WKU have been because of the people around me: my subjects, my professors and my peers. The most important thing I’ve learned in the photojournalism program is that talent in this profession means nothing If you aren’t a good person, a compassionate person and an empathetic person.

Chase Sheehan

Lexington, South Carolina | Photojournalism major, Communication Studies minor

Jimmy Thomas watches as his cousin and caretaker, Dana Thomas, scoops rocks into a small sinkhole on his farm. Jimmy Thomas has cerebral palsy and needs help doing daily maintenance on his property, where he has about 40-head of cattle.

This image represents the moment that journalism came together for me. I met the Thomas’s before my last semester of college and was drawn to their story. After spending several weeks with them, I started to understand what it meant to dig deeper.

The moment seen in this photo made me realize that I was capable of showing the magnitude of relationships between people. When I saw the image on my computer later that day, I felt like I had really captured the essence of their story, a family that was willing to do anything for each other.

Megan Strassweg

Louisville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Entrepreneurship minor

John Raleigh, 37, has been a bartender for 15 years. He found his home at Mo’s House in Evansville, Ind., after 12 years at the same college dive bar. He needed a change and has been at Mo’s since its opening in 2017.

“The older I got, the more I learned about the creativity and craftsmanship,” Raleigh said. “I’m able to use my college degree in art behind the bar, not only in the preparation of cocktails but by having a direct effect on an entire experience. Music, lighting and presentation are all important to me.”

After a few semesters of going through the Photojournalism program, I was having trouble finding my niche. Then I started PJ 333, our studio lighting class, and within a few weeks I figured out what I really wanted to do with my photography. Portraits came easy to me, and I loved working with different subjects and being able to show them the finished product.

The way John spoke about his bartending career and how he felt about it inspired me to continue my ventures in photography. I had multiple moments where I didn’t feel like I was succeeding and wanted to quit, but thinking back on the conversation I had with John gave me the confidence to keep going.

Looking back on that 2:00 a.m. shoot with John at Mo’s House, I’m happy that I continued in my studies and stuck with it no matter how many times I wanted to give up. Every portrait I’ve made represents a moment that I was able to capture with my camera and share with the people around me. Without those moments, I would be a different person.

Katie Stratman

Covington, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Digital Advertising minor


  • National Senior Games, Albuquerque, N.M

Taveion Hollingsworth celebrates after taking the lead over Arkansas in overtime. Western Kentucky University triumphed over the previously undefeated Arkansas team 86-79 on December 7, 2019, in E.A. Diddle Arena.

I started working with the WKU Athletic Department my sophomore year of college. Basketball season at Western is definitely one of my favorites. The atmosphere in Diddle Arena is special, especially when playing an SEC opponent like Arkansas, which was undefeated until the team came to Bowling Green.

I remember walking into the stadium that night a little nervous but very much excited to see how the game was going to unfold. This picture was taken in overtime and it enabled Western to take and keep the lead. I was sitting the furthest away from the basket, trying to capture the emotion on Hollingsworth’s face over everybody in front of me. My heart and mind were racing a mile a minute throughout the entire game.

I love to capture the reaction shots in any game, as any expression can tell a story.

Silas Walker

Portland, Oregon | Photojournalism major, Digital Advertising minor


  • Lexington Herald-News, Lexington, Ky.
  • Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah

Malik Staples of the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers sprays water while celebrating a victory against the University of Alabama Birmingham Blazers on September 28, 2019, at Houchens L. T. Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Hilltoppers and Blazers went back and forth, tying the game in the third quarter, but the Hilltoppers were able to stop the Blazers and add a touchdown in the fourth quarter to win the game. The Hilltoppers went on to have an 8-4 season and win the 2019 First Responder Bowl game against the Western Michigan Broncos.

I was working the WKU vs. UAB football game for Getty Images. It had been a long night, with both teams scoring back and forth. When WKU finally took the lead in the fourth quarter, I could tell the team was going to go crazy, so I rushed to put myself in front of the student section where I knew they would run to celebrate. The team did rush over and celebrate. I saw some players grabbing the opposing team’s water bottles and start spraying water everywhere, so I just started making pictures.

When I looked at this image while running back to the workroom, I was so happy one image worked out from the celebration. This image really helped my confidence because I had known where the right place was, when the right time was and I was prepared to document the moment.

Hayley Watson

Louisville, Kentucky | Photojournalism major, Digital Advertising minor

Alexis Watkins, a Western Kentucky University student from Louisville, Ky., is a student leader for the university’s Intercultural Student Engagement Center (ISEC) Academy. ISEC is a Western Kentucky University initiative/program to assist students who identify as students of color, and/or who are first-generation college students, Pell Grant eligible and have some need for assistance with their transition, persistence and graduation from Western Kentucky University. Watkins credited the academy for playing such a huge role in her college experience thus far.

This photo was the first time that I learned that you can make studio-quality photos outside of the studio. It was the first time that the power of a quiet moment and nice lighting really clicked for me.

Due to the nature of the lighting assignment we were given – show up at DSU and there will be a 5-10-minute time limit with each student who comes to you – I wasn’t really able to “research” my character or the idea before we began shooting, so I showed up knowing that I was going to have to be personable and likable if I wanted to take a photo that shared the essence of who Alexis was.

During our photo session, I asked her if she had brought anything that was special to her, and that’s when she pulled out her rosary beads and we started talking about faith and belief systems. I went in thinking this was an assignment only teaching me how to use camera lighting equipment, but in actuality I left feeling more confident as a photojournalist.

The Making of “These Days”

The 2020 PJ433 Projects class on the last day as they used Zoom to present their final project “These Days” to our Professional Advisory Board, Justin Fowler, Leslye Davis and Cara Owsley. Photo faculty and staff Jeanie Adams-Smith, Jonathan Adams, James Kenney and Miranda Pederson were also present in on the class.


In a socially-distant approved Slack exchange, PJ436 Projects in Photojournalism professor Tim Broekema interviewed These Day’s student project manager Nic Huey about how the idea germinated and how did the class ultimately engage in what became a powerful project where not one member of the photo class actually picked up a camera but yet, used every ounce of their visual training to make this story become a reality.


What inspired you and your classmates to pivot to a team project?

Shortly after receiving the news that WKU would be transitioning to online classes, I knew the second half of our last photojournalism class would be a bit different. Emily Moses and I were discussing ideas about how to document people’s experiences as this unfolded.  We knew that the situation was incredibly dynamic; our feelings, as well as everyone else’s, were changing daily, sometimes even hourly. We had considered at first trying to tackle it on our own, but knew that to get a wide scope of voices we would need to enlist the help of others.  I think within 24 hours I had reached out to you to get that ball rolling. 

Did you have a vision in place as you started or did the project change along the way?

That may have been one of the most challenging aspects of the project.  We knew that the most important thing was to start gathering content as soon as possible and to continue to interview the same people as the situation unfolded in order to capture the emotional rollercoaster we were all on.  New interviews came in almost daily, and the target shifted with each update.  I can remember hopping off Zoom calls feeling confident in our direction and plan, only to be derailed within days by new news about the virus or technical limitations with our workflow. Then it was back to the drawing board, shifting our ideas to better present the content that was coming in. The vision was a moving target, but so was the virus, so it felt fitting honestly. 

There were 13 people involved in this project, and the professor – and you all could not meet in person, did you ever have a moment where you felt this was a bad idea – and it stood no chance in getting done?

The work from home approach came with many pros and cons. On the one hand, it was easier to work on our own time, but that came with the consequence of struggling to keep everyone on the same page. We all met together once a week on Zoom, but I would say most of the progress was made on everyone’s own schedules. I felt like our lives pretty much existed between Zoom, Slack, and Frame.IO at times, especially towards the end. I knew it would get done, it was just a matter of how stressful it would be in the final days. 

Did you feel that in some way, the quarantine brought about a new level of opportunity for learning?

Personally I would say this was the greatest learning experience of my college career. We were forced to adapt overnight to new circumstances and develop remote workflows, coordinating an effort between 13 people that involved new tools that many of us had never used. I think it was great preparation for the journalism and production worlds as well, and for any industry for that matter; work from home will be the new normal for millions of people. I can’t say that I’m glad our semester ended this way, but we all learned to overcome new obstacles and are better off for it. 

Did you feel the project was successful?

I think that we achieved our goal. I think there are definitely things that we would approach differently given another opportunity, but that’s how the learning process works. We were able to try new things with this project and experiment with new ways of storytelling which was a lot of fun. I think the stories and experiences of our characters came across in a really authentic way and I feel like we can all see ourselves fitting right into this story in some way or another. At the end of the day, I would say we all walked away with a project that we can be proud of.

VISIT THESE DAYS to see the entire project

Before I go

In her personal project Before I Go, WKU senior Morgan Hornsby examines her relationships with her immediately family as she reckons with her decision to move away. With rural Kentucky as her landscape, Hornsby explores themes such as intimacy, longing, and the desire to create a new life.

My mom and I get ready for my grandmother’s funeral on April 21, 2020 in Albany, KY.



I am from a place where leaving is betrayal. For all my life, my family has lived in a small town in Eastern Kentucky. This has been true for generations. It is a place of tradition, where families build houses next to each other and gather on Sunday for post-church dinners.

Everybody knows everybody and nobody goes too far from home. In my girlhood, I didn’t dream of marriage or family as much as creating my own interesting life. I grew up happily, but with a map on my wall.

This work was made the year leading up to my graduation from college. It is meant to be an examination of what I’m leaving behind, looking closely at my connection to my family and our connection to the land. This work is also a question mark as I examine the life I have, holding it up to the light of all that I want. To see the entire project, click here.

All In My Head

In her personal project, In My Head, WKU senior Lydia Schweickart, of Louisville, Ky., reflects on her experience recovering from a traumatic brain injury and how it affected her mental wellbeing, the people she loves, and the path of self-discovery that it provoked.



In March of last year, I was in a car wreck and suffered a severe Traumatic Brain Injury. I received medical attention for 10 weeks: 1 week in the ICU of Skyline Medical Center, 2 weeks at Frazier Rehabilitation Institute, and 7 Weeks attending Frazier Outpatient Therapy. After the wreck I found myself in the hospital, not knowing why, lost and confused. The recovery process involved having to relearn everything that I knew before the wreck; Walking, Eating, Writing, Fine Motor Skills, Communication, Memory, etc. Having a sense of identity is an essential part of the human experience, and the car wreck stripped me of that identity.

Although my brain tissue has recovered, I will still always question whether a trait, a lapse in memory, slow reaction time, etc. are the result of something related to the car wreck. Because my brain has suffered this damage, I’ll never be the same person I was before the TBI, so it’s like I’ll never “fully” recover. When I started my recovery process I was a blank slate, learning and gathering information about who I was before and trying desperately to be that person again. One of the biggest obstacles was coming to terms with the fact that being that person again isn’t an option for me.

Accepting that I will be forever changed helped me to stop mourning the Lydia lost in that intersection. Recovery became a way to learn more about the Lydia I am now. Even though I have changed, the support of my family and loved ones never did. I didn’t have to go through this exploration alone. Having a traumatic brain injury is like rewriting who you are, and my car wreck provoked an identity crisis that forced me to ask myself, “Who Am I?”

One year after the accident, I’m still figuring out who I am and am in no rush to find the answer. To see the entire project, click here.

These Days: A 2020 Senior Class Project

A multimedia enterprise that captures the emotional journey Americans have collectively experienced during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. This project aims to highlight how the universally shared experience of grief deeply connects those who would otherwise be strangers.


To see the entire project, please click here



For the last four years at Western Kentucky University we’ve sat through literally hundreds of photojournalism program lectures about  telling powerful and personal stories through the lenses of our cameras. We’ve been taught that great stories come from talking to people on the street and sharing moments with people in their homes. In the middle of our last semester we were completely stripped of those tools. As a class, each of us were deep into the production of our capstone projects; for many of us they would be the highlights of our careers at WKU.

With the finish line in sight, we were thrown an unprecedented curveball. We’d obviously heard about the virus, but we took for granted the potential it had to disrupt our lives. We left campus excited for spring break, saying “see you later” instead of “goodbye”. Just like that we were locked down and our finish line moved impossibly out of sight. “What now?” Was on everyone’s mind but in no time discussions began on a group project to document the evolving crisis.

This was a learning experience for all of us. We learned how to connect with people through our webcams. How to tell stories about life and humanity through the lens of someone else’s iPhone. Without ever touching our cameras, we collected stories from people across the country. Without ever meeting in person, we collaborated digitally to storyboard, produce, and edit a project with dozens of unique voices. We put into practice perhaps the most essential skill we’ve learned; how to adapt and overcome.

Now we look towards the future. Searching for work in an uncertain job market, moving away from the college town we’ve all called home, no chance to say goodbye to our favorite diners and dive bars. A more bitter than sweet final semester, to say the least. Through all of the ups and downs of these days, there is one thing that helps us get through. When someone asks in 20 years what we did during the COVID-19 pandemic, we can show them how we all overcame our historic circumstances. 

Life in Quarantine

The non-majors PJ131 Introduction to Photography class took to turning their camera on themselves, the life around them and their families as they found themselves quarantined the second half of the spring semester due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. We are proud of their efforts and wanted to take a moment to applaud their work and recognize their efforts.

“The first thing I’m doing when quarantine is over is going to church,” Catherine Taylor said on Sunday. Much like her husband, she has missed very few Sundays and longs to be back in the church building she grew up in, rather than praying virtually on her front porch. “I know that church isn’t just a building, but I can’t wait to be worshiping with my church family again.” she added. Photo by Rachel Taylor

Stephen Taylor follows along in his Bible as his pastor reads Psalm 23 through video. “These days I’m spending Sundays mornings on my front porch watching my preacher on a Facebook video and I think it’s normal. How crazy is that?” Stephen said he’s never missed church more than two or three Sundays in a row his entire life. Now he’s missed nearly seven because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Rachel Taylor

“In all my years of preaching, I never could’ve imagined doing something like this.” Brother Grant Minton has been the pastor at the Auburn Cumberland Presbyterian Church for over 25 years and has been a pastor his entire life. “The worst part is the empty seats. Preaching to my phone just isn’t the same.” Photo by Rachel Taylor

As Lara Levine is painting, Tiger, one of three cats comes to visit. He is intrigued by the paint brush and sniffs it, ending up getting paint on his nose. “Tiger is a funny cat and is always sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.” Photo by Samantha Levine




While the COIVD-19 pandemic takes over, I try to find the light in the situation no matter how impossible it seems. Continuing to find myself and blossom like I was in my first year of college has taken an unexpected turn, but I will make do. After every storm there is a rainbow, you just have to look for it. Photo by Grace Bailey


Luke Taylor, a Western student, goes to the grocery store so his grandparents can stay at home. “You never know how much you hate being lazy until you’re forced to be lazy. Sometimes, I go to the store because I have nothing better to do.” said Taylor. There is no question many share Taylor’s feelings, even during quarantine the roads of Bowling Green are packed to the brim as people try to escape the boredom of their homes. Photo by Raaj Banga



Derrick Russell, 9, looks out the window with his backpack thinking of memories of going to school. “I miss my teacher and friends, I don’t want to stay in the house anymore.” With hopes to everything getting better he is currently taking classes online. Photo by Vonn Pillman





Yvette Calhon, 60, cheers up her grandson who misses going to school. “I understand that every kid his age wants to be around others his age this is very hard for him.” With hopes of everything going back to normal she gives him a new toy everyday to make him happy. Photo by Vonn Pillman


Photographer Kennedy Gott tries to find a way to continue to take portraits while in self-quarantine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing is becoming very frustrating to her because she misses being able to do the things she loves and see the people she loves. “I wanted to use this blanket to show this feeling of ‘being trapped’ within my home,” she thought. Photo by Kennedy Gott


Paul Driehaus sits on the stairs, rather annoyed with Josie, the dog. They’ve had a long few weeks, with him not being able to go out. Paul is not taking too well to being stuck, as he likes to be independent. Photo by Alex Driehaus


Michael Frausto secures the placement of his mask to avoid contamination. Michael says, “I must do everything in my power to ensure safety of my daughter.” Photo by Karla Frausto


This moment in my life is very strange and I’ve found myself struggling to find balance between healthy and unhealthy behaviors. My cigarette intake is up to two packs per day. I’m also finding it hard to convince myself to bathe, as it’s really my only big to-do. In this photo I’m embracing the yen and the yang. Photo by Missy Johnson


During the COVID-19 pandemic, several volunteers help to bag groceries contains essential foods for the Ephram White Park Food Drive in Bowling Green, KY. Photo by Kennedy Gott


Two sisters run around in the creek through Cherokee Park. “I love watching them play in the water, they just have so much fun!,” their parents said, Even though these girls can’t be around their friends the ability to get out and enjoy the weather brought big smiles to their faces. Photo by Alyssa Gordon


Carley Kayabasi sits at Cherokee Park with her mask on while visiting her friend. She says, “With such pretty weather it has been awesome to social distance in the outdoors with a close friend.” Photo by Alyssa Gordon


On April 14th, her fourth week of self-isolation and social distancing, WKU freshman and student journalist Cassady Lamb takes a slow shutter self-portrait in her house located in Louisville, KY. Louisville currently has hundreds of reported coronavirus cases, and citizens of the Commonwealth are urged by Governor Beshear to stay in their homes if applicable. Photo by Cassady Lamb


Ken and Leslie Kann have found taking walks around their neighborhood to be beneficial for their mental health. “Getting some fresh air outside helps life feel a little more ‘normal'”, Leslie says. “A change of scenery no matter how small is definitely nice.” Photo by Elly Kann


Self-portrait by Fatimah Alhamdin.


Self-portrait by Raaj Banga.


This very small one bedroom apartment located on Fairview Ave.houses three cats and one dog, making Johnsons time of isolation less lonely. Photo by Missy Johnson

How long has it been?

On March 11, 2020 at 2:09 PM WKU President Tim Caboni sent out an email outlining this university’s COVID-19 response plan, altering our lives forever – or at the very least, for a very long time. The letter in part stated, “As the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolves, WKU continues to monitor aggressively the situation as it unfolds. We have for weeks been holding extensive internal discussions and developing a wide range of contingency plans to make preparations that best protect our WKU Community and also the broader communities in which we live. It is now necessary to activate a portion of those plans.”

Something we know many are asking themselves right now is how long have we been in quarantine? Using this date as the beginning of our battle with this pandemic, we started this count-up clock. Let’s all try to stop this clock from counting up and follow CDC guidelines – social distance, or as we like to call it, physical distance, and help your neighbors anyway that you can.

How are Kentuckians facing the future of work?

The Way We Work

In place of coal miners stand robotic machines. Instead of farmhands, Bluetooth tracking-chips count cattle. Older folks are on their toes, redefining, revamping and reconsidering their work, while younger people are charging boldly and soberly toward their specialized and technical careers. As the workforce transforms at breakneck speed, it seems that if Kentuckians don’t take advantage of the myriad modern technological opportunities, they’ll be left in the coal dust. The Way We Work follows farmer, Mark Chapman, former coal-mine worker William Stevens and high school senior Kendall Pearson as they navigate the tricky job market and determine what may career path may be best for them.