New Photograph Exhibition Documents 75 Years of Small Towns in Missouri

The State Historical Society of Missouri, in collaboration with the Missouri School of Journalism, invites the public to view a new exhibit, Small Towns, Big Stories, open now through February 10, 2024, at the Center for Missouri Studies, 605 Elm St., Columbia. A public reception with the curators will be held Sat. Nov. 4 from 1:30-3 p.m.  The free exhibition documents 75 years of the Missouri Photo Workshop, which has captured images of life in rural Missouri towns and the changes to the people, culture, and landscape in America’s heartland. Visitors can explore 121 images taken in 51 towns over the last 75 years. The exhibit is being supported by the Missouri School of Journalism, Miller’s Professional Imaging, and the Missouri Humanities Trust Fund.

Cliff Edom, founder of the workshop and a pioneer in photojournalism education at the Missouri School of Journalism, was inspired by the gritty documentary photography of the Farm Security Administration during the New Deal. Veterans of the FSA photo corps worked with Edom to create a rigorous weeklong workshop in 1949. Each year, a town in Missouri is chosen as the host community. Workshop participants document a story with their cameras under the guidance of faculty who are some of the industry’s most prominent photographers and editors. The body of the work then becomes part of an extensive archive of life in small-town Missouri.

Brian Kratzer, current co-director of the Missouri Photo Workshop, along with former co-directors Jim Curley and David Rees, curated the exhibition from a collection of photos numbering in the thousands.

“This is Missouri’s photo album,” said Kratzer. “We welcome everyone to explore how small towns have changed across the state ad to see some of the best documentary photography that has captured America’s heartland.”

Kratzer said the workshop maintains the world’s longest continuous photographic archive of rural America. The Missouri Photo Workshop maintains a website with many digital images from previous year.

The public is invited to visit the exhibitions during regular visitor hours at the SHSMO Art Gallery, Center for Missouri Studies, Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and each Saturday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Learn more at