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Making a Difference: Eyes on LaFollette

(Video by Tennessee Crossroads)

The Mission

Advanced Photojournalism students from the University of Tennessee’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media have taken pictures of what life looks like in the small town of La Follette, Tennessee since 1993. Students spend 36 hours each spring capturing photo stories for publication in the city’s newspaper, LaFollette Press. In October 2014, Eyes on LaFollete debuted in their first public exhibit at the Tennessee State Museum in Nashville.

Photo by Ben Moser

On January 6, 2015, The New York Times featured an article about Eyes on LaFollette along with an online photo gallery. Find them both here. /Photo by Ben Moser.

The Partners

Project director and UT professor Rob Heller first proposed his project idea to a colleague at LaFollette’s newspaper in the early 1990’s. From 1993 on, LaFollette Press has been supporting the project and plans to continue to as long as students are willing to spend the day and half needed to speak with residents and use photo documentation to tell stories. The East Tennessee Foundation is also a contributing partner for the Eyes on LaFollette program, providing funding support for student travel, lodging and equipment. Members of the LaFollette community are eager participants in the project that documents their daily lives, as well.  UT Partners include the College of Communication and Information, School of Journalism and Electronic Media.

Impact on UT

Eyes on LaFollette introduces students to life in a small Tennessee town and allows them to produce high-quality, local journalism. In addition to featuring the photos, LaFollette Press gives the photojournalism students full control over the annual newspaper section that features their public journalism work. Students learn how to edit and caption content for publication and receive hands-on experience with design layout.

Impact on Community

Together, student photographers and community members of LaFollette turn the picturesque small town into an engaging learning experience. As a rural area, LaFollette has a population of less than 7,500 residents. The Eyes on LaFollette project is a celebration of the ordinary, drawing attention to the importance of documenting the beauty of every day life. The photos hold up a mirror to the people of LaFollette, as seen through the eyes of UT students.

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Eyes on LaFollette

Click here to read about more Partnerships that Make a Difference.