"Make it interesting." A shot from an arts and community development conference North Carolina. (Photo by Shawn Poynter)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of an occasional series of photographs by Shawn Poynter, our former visual editor who left the Daily Yonder to return to photography full time. Read Shawn’s Viewfinder interview or see more of his work on his website.


I jokingly call myself the fourth-best rural-policy-conference photographer in the Southeast. All humility aside, though, I’m probably closer to the second or third.

Over the past decade or so, I’ve had the good luck to photograph conferences of many different flavors. The first was for the Rural People, Rural Policy program founded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. They would bring their network members together a couple times a year for an intensive three-day meeting. It only took a day or two to realize how tedious it is photographing people in beige, windowless rooms watching PowerPoint presentations.

So I started thinking about what would both be helpful for the client and keep me from going insane with boredom in between hotel buffet meals. Luckily, any time you get folks in a room and ask them to figure out solutions for their communities, they’ll start to loosen up and candid moments will emerge. That gives me a little more to work with. I also start looking for images that are just interesting. Pretty soon, I’m documenting the conference and maybe even producing photos that a group will want to use in a blog post or publication.

Take a boring space and make it interesting – that’s the secret to becoming the second or third best rural-policy-conference photographer in the Southeast.

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