Capturing a community one picture at a time

HARRISBURG, IL (KFVS) - How do you tell the story of a community in only a matter of days and pictures?  That was the challenge put forth to more than 30 photojournalism students from around the world this past weekend.

They began at sunrise on Friday and snapped pictures throughout Harrisburg, and they took their last pictures at sunset on Sunday.

"I think the great thing about this community is they've never been photographed like this before. Sure they were photographed for the tornado last year," said Lewis Marien of Decatur, Illinois. "This is a different side, it's just the daily life in Harrisburg. It's awesome. I'm just so happy to be part of it."

The students have been knocking on doors, stopping in at coffee shops and anywhere else they could find people and a story.

Some of them spent a couple of days in Harrisburg before the project began getting a feel for the town and the people who live there.

But, for some it was their first day in The Gateway to the Shawnee National Forest.

"It's really worth doing because I discover so many small things about life. I never been to Harrisburg," said Ai Saito of Tokyo, Japan. " Some times people say, oh I don't have a story. I don't have a story to share. But I believe that every single person has a story/ And I want to know what they think, what they see and their ordinary life."

Throughout the weekend the students were coached and critiqued by some of the most acclaimed photojournalist in the business. Even a Pulitzer Prize winner worked closely with a team to help them capture history in a photograph.

And two representatives from Canon USA were on hand with plenty of gear for the students to use for the project along with helpful tips on how everything worked.

SIU Cinema and Photography alumni Brian Matsumoto said he was happy to be able to come back to Southern Illinois and help out his fellow students at SIU.

"What we do is provide a slice of life with our books," said Mark Dolan an associate professor at Southern Illinois University School of Photojournalism. "What we're saying is this is what Harrisburg was like on this weekend. This was this weekend in time in Harrisburg. That's what we try to document."

Their book "A Weekend in Harrisburg" will be available to the public in May of 2014.

This is the 5th photo-project that students at SIU have worked on over the years in communities throughout Southern Illinois.