Project Also Serves as a Master’s Project for Joshua A. Bickel
By Angela Hamilton
Columbia, Mo. (Sept. 9, 2009) — “St. James: The People of Missouri’s ‘Forest City of the Ozarks,'” a collaborative book project of Missouri School of Journalism students and professional photojournalists, will be released this week. The publication coincides with the St. James’ 76th annual Grape and Fall Festival on Sept. 10-12 and the start of the fourth stage of the Tour of Missouri bicycle race in that community.
The 176-page book, available in both hard and soft covers, features photographs taken during the 60th Missouri Photo Workshop (MPW) and a similar experience for photojournalism students enrolled in their capstone course. Situated among rolling hills and surrounded by trees, the highly photogenic St. James, with just one main street comprising the downtown district, is the so-called doorstep of the Ozarks.
The September 2008 MPW attracted 40 photographers from all corners of America and eight countries. Founded in 1949 by Clifton C. Edom, MPW brings together professional photographers from around the world to document small-town Missouri life with a camera. Edom was a Missouri professor many have labeled as the “father of photojournalism.” He began the photojournalism sequence at the School when he joined the faculty in 1943. Edom also was the founder of Pictures of the Year International, a prestigious photo competition now more than 60 years old.
Rita Reed, associate professor of photojournalism who spent part of her childhood in St. James, offered a follow-up “Mini-MO-Pho” to the 16 students in her fall 2008 capstone titled “Picture Story and the Photographic Essay.” The students, like the professional workshop photographers, got to live in St. James as an immersion experience and document the lives of its citizens.
Joshua Bickel, MA ’09, whose master’s project was fulfilled through his work on the St. James book, headed up the production, compiling the work from the Missouri Photo Workshop and from Reed’s photojournalism class. Students in a copyediting course taught by Maggie Walter, associate professor of print and digital news, assisted with editing during the spring 2009 semester.
“The biggest challenge was the scale,” Bickel said. “I worked on the book from the start of the workshop last September through mid-August. I’ve never worked on a project that was this big, both in number of pages and in the amount of time I spent on it.”
Select images taken from St. James: The People of Missouri’s Forest City of the Ozarks.
Bickel received guidance and encouragement from his master’s committee, which included Reed as well as David Rees, chair of the photojournalism faculty, and Joy Mayer, a member of the print and digital news faculty and design editor for the Columbia Missourian.
Jim Sterling, the Missouri Community Newspaper Management chair, also assisted with the project. Sterling, who worked alongside Edom during his tenure at the Missouri Press Association 45 years ago, noted that the Missouri Photo Workshop has been a very bright moment in the history of the communities. “When the dean asked if I could help out, I was excited to do it,” he said.
Based on this experience, Bickel would like to work on a similar project in the future. He now serves as an adjunct instructor at the School and as director of photography for the Missourian. The experience in St. James provided real-life training that has carried over to his work on the Missourian.
“As the director of photography, I have to manage a considerable number of student photographers and photo editors, all while making sure that their time at the Missourian is educational as well as professional. Working on this project taught me a lot about the nuances of picture editing, which I try to pass along to the students in the picture editing and photo desk management class that I teach,” Bickel said.
Noting that it was very satisfying to him personally to work on the book from beginning to end, Bickel said, “I hope the people of the town look at this and see an honest portrait of themselves and are proud of it, too.”
St. James: The People of Missouri’s “Forest City of the Ozarks” can be purchased at the festival or by contacting Rees. The hardbound edition is $29.95; softcover, $19.95. Bickel will be on hand to sign copies of the book during the Grape and Fall Festival on Sept. 10-12. Hardbound copies of the book will be presented and dedicated at each of St. James’ four libraries.
Updated: May 5, 2020