Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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A new look on old towns: SIU Photojournalism’s 2024 weekend workshop 

Brian Munoz
Students, visiting professionals and community members look through photos produced by students in the Photojournalism Weekend Workshop in an open gallery event April 14, 2024 in Alto Pass, Illinois. SIU and Eastern Illinois University students, with mentorship from working professionals, participated in the 2024 Weekend Photojournalism Workshop visually documenting Cobden and Alto Pass, Illinois. Photo courtesy of Brian Munoz | @brianmmunoz

In Cobden and Alto Pass, from La Mexicana to Flock Farms, Southern Illinois University photojournalism students show a different view of the people and places that make up these two southern Illinois towns. 


Assistant professor in the school of journalism and advertising, Julia Rendleman, hosted eight southern Illinois students and invited Greg Cooper of Eastern Illinois University and four of his photojournalism students to participate in this year’s revamped weekend workshop. 



Cooper got into photography as a hobby at a young age and turned it into a full time career as an assistant professor at Eastern Illinois. 

SIU’s photojournalism 2024 weekend workshop group April 14, 2024 in Alto Pass, Illinois. The workshop took place from April 12-14 and included photojournalism students from both SIU and Eastern Illinois University.


“Meeting professor Rendleman was a fantastic opportunity chance encounter at the ICPA conference two years ago, and realizing that we teach similar styles and programs and have the similar level of students and interest. When she told me about this workshop, I immediately jumped down like what can I do? I want to help make this part of my curriculum but also even if I can’t bring students down I want to be a part of this. So it worked out, she was able to relaunch this workshop. Again this year and I just jumped in,” Cooper said. 


“We’re made up of, if not, the only few photojournalism programs in the state that have instructors coming from the industry… both of our programs are really small, our students bonded at ICPA. I’m always looking to give students opportunities and because we could fit them in, why wouldn’t we?” Rendleman said. 



On the drive to southern Illinois Cooper told his students that he had no expectations for them but to learn. He wasn’t worried about them making portfolio worthy pictures, he just wanted them to get out in the field and put themselves out there more than they would on a regular day. 


“They learn to be human beings, they interact with the public and they make pictures good or bad,” he said. 


During their 48 hours in the workshop students picked a place to go make photos, they would go out on assignment for a few hours, then come back to home base and receive critique from alumni and professional photojournalists. 


“On Friday everybody from SIU started their stories this morning hopefully bright and early and then are coming in throughout the day for edits from the different visiting faculty members. Tomorrow is going to be the same going out and trying to improve on those stories, make connections in the community and find other things to photograph,” Rendleman said. 


“After the sun goes down, we’ll have presentations by visiting faculty, they’ll share their work, that’ll be really inspiring. Then we’ll have a best of photos of the day for the students,” Rendleman continued about the workshop. 


During critiques, alumni would go through the students’ shoots and pick their favorites while giving feedback on what they could work better on while giving them more ideas for other possible photo opportunities. Whether it be using your feet instead of your zoom to make a better photo. 

Students and visiting professionals gather around to view the best photos of the day and listen to presentations April 12, 2024 in Alto Pass, Illinois. Photo courtesy of Greg Cooper


Nicole Hester, an SIU alum who currently works at the Tennessean in Nashville, Tennessee, made the trip to Alto Pass to bring some of her experiences to help students better their work.


”I remember being where they are. It was a time when I was very new to this. I was very excited about this, and I wanted to let them know that there’s someone who’s working in the industry now who they could physically reach out to,” Hester said.


Hester said that not only are the students benefiting from the workshop but she is as well. She said the workshop gives her a lot of hope for the future of photojournalism.


”I think we’re starting to balance things out from when I got into this 

[photojournalism],” she said.


Rendleman, the ringleader of the new and improved weekend workshop said that when she was a student at Southern the workshop was very influential for her as a student. 


“…I think pivotal to my successful career was some of the fundamentals i got from the weekend workshop,” she said. 


Rendleman believes there are two things that happen for the students in terms of growth, firstly, their pictures. The workshop put the students in an intense situation, shooting all day and getting feedback almost immediately and then having the opportunity to go back and improve on the things they were given direction on. Second, they have the opportunity to grow as a photographer. They learn that photojournalism isn’t just pushing a button, it’s human relations and waiting for a moment for the perfect photo, not searching for the moment. 


She found it very important that the people she invited to critique were alums that are successful in the industry to create networking opportunities to not only further their skills but give them opportunities to meet people who were in the exact same position they are currently in.


”We’re meeting former Salukis who are out there doing it,” Rendleman said.


The weekend workshop gave students the opportunity to get out of their comfort zone and really dig deep to make amazing photos as well as the ability to network with people in the southern Illinois community and other successful photojournalists. 


“This is more than the classroom experience can give you,” Rendleman said. 



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