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April 11, 2014

The Story Next Door

Images, project capture day in local communities

MEADVILLE — What started as an experiment to bring two college journalism programs together to work on a project, and also to bring Allegheny College and the Meadville community together, turned into collaboration between these three groups in an unprecedented way.

Allegheny Journalism in the Public Interest Assistant Visiting Professor Cheryl Hatch and Meadville Tribune photographer Richard Sayer began talking a year ago about doing a “Day in the Life of ...” style event in the Meadville community. The Day in the Life of America or Australia coffee table books were created by bringing many photographers to one place with a purpose, to document that day and in essence document that period of time in that place.

The idea was modified to fit more in line with one of Ohio University’s old projects in which Hatch participated in when she was a grad student — “Sunrise to Sunset.” Hatch coined the phrase “The Story Next Door” to focus on this year’s conference theme of documenting a community through journalism.

As part of the second annual photojournalism conference at Allegheny College, more than 30 photographers took to the streets of Meadville and its surrounding communities to take thousands of photographs, which were then edited by top photo editors in the field — Nicole Fruge of the San Franscico Chronicle and Stan Alost of Ohio University — along with Sayer, Hatch and three Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalists — Preston Gannaway, Richard Murphy and Michael Williamson. Murphy is an Allegheny Class of 1971 graduate.

“The Story Next Door” highlights many facets of the Meadville community that are perhaps not always readily seen. Fresh eyes from outsiders coming in to explore the area combined with community members who have lived here for many years give a glimpse at the people and surroundings that many may not take particular note of or even care to see in their daily lives.

Though it’s impossible to reflect a complete picture of a community in a couple dozen photographs taken in one day, an attempt was made to at least make us aware of some of those things that happen every day in our community. “The Story Next Door” also showcases the experiences of the conference participants as they went into the community.

It’s no accident that a couple kids with skateboards had their portrait made on the street, or a mom with her three young children sit on a couch as they begin their day, much like they begin every other day, or a cake designer shares how making a cake in the shape of the “Breaking Bad” TV show’s famed RV is perhaps the most important cake she has ever had to make.

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