Book cover

May 10, 2013

Book highlights people, events in Chester

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An event next week will showcase the photographic talents of students in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s School of Journalism.

The unveiling of “A Weekend in Chester” is set for May 19 from 3 to 7 p.m. at The Cohen Home on Harrison Street in Chester.  The 80-page book, which features 190 photos, is the culmination of a three-day photojournalism project in late September

The goal is to sell enough copies of the book to cover the cost of printing.  The remaining copies will be distributed between the community and the University, with the bulk going to the community.

This is the fourth “Weekend” project that Mark J. Dolan, assistant professor in the School of Journalism, has done at SIU.  He conducted eight similar workshops while teaching at Syracuse University prior to coming to SIU in 2008.

“This is a great addition to the series.  Chester was a wonderful community,” Dolan said.

Jennifer Gonzalez, who earned her bachelor’s degree in photojournalism in December, is from Chester and suggested the community as the project.  She was a student photographer for a third time and also a book designer and editor for a second year.

“I loved sharing the community of Chester with my colleagues, students, and visiting professionals,” she said.  “It was such a treat for me to see them interact with the people in my life, such as my family, my high school band teacher, or area artists and historians.”

Gonzalez graduated from Chester High School in 2008, and will be focusing on earning her master’s degree from SIU in digital documentary.  She said people in Chester are used to seeing her with a camera, “everywhere -- Walmart, Reids, walking along the street, band concerts, everywhere.”

“It was different because now I had this ‘army’ of photographers doing the exact same thing that I do,” she said.

The intense three-day shoot included students being able to utilize the talents of 15 visiting newspaper photojournalists and editors from around the country. The professional mentoring was of great value to the students during the project, said Phillip W. Greer, photojournalist-in-residence.  Many of professional mentors maintain contact with students after the workshop, and the students’ work can lead to internships and jobs, he added.

“To bring in accomplished professionals from around the country to work with our students during the course of one weekend is special,” Dolan said.  “The students have an entire weekend where their concentration is just their photography and they get constant feedback, constant coaching, constant editing.  It’s not anything that can be replicated in the classroom.”

Many students also maintain relationships with people in the community whom they document, he said.

The workshops taught Gonzalez a great deal about communication.

“As intensive an experience as this is, we have to communicate with our subjects, our fellow photographers, and the visiting professionals acting as our editors for the weekend,” she said.  “I’ve created some of my best images from these workshops.  It is really an invaluable experience.  I hope other students take advantage of getting to work with these professionals who fly in from all over the country, providing us with their knowledge and insight.  It’s also a great opportunity to make contacts with the best editors in the business.”

Dolan emphasizes the project has never been envisioned as a for-profit endeavor.

“All we want to do is try to keep the project going because it has meant so much to our students and all of these communities,” he said.

The project is similar to those highlighting Murphysboro in 2009, Cobden and Alto Pass in 2010, and the Tri-C community of Cambria, Carterville and Crainville in 2011.

The next workshop is tentatively set for Oct. 4-6, with the community to be determined.