How the Missouri Photo Workshop built a network in a day to handle 850GB of video and photos

While documenting small-town America for nearly seven decades, the Missouri Photo Workshop — the longest-running workshop of its kind in the nation — tackles new digital challenges every fall.

1,200 people, 15,000 images: Digital transformation at the Missouri Photo Workshop

In 1949, photography instructors at the University of Missouri joined with legendary photojournalists from the era to hold the first Missouri Photo Workshop. Nearly seven decades later, the workshop is still going strong, selecting a new small town in the midwestern state to document each year. It's the longest-running documentary photography workshop in the US.

But the days of the darkroom are long gone, and the workshop each September is faced with setting up a network to handle tens of thousands of images, hundreds of gigabytes of video, and wireless access points for more than 100 people.

All out of thin air.

"The main obstacle every year is the venue itself," said Hany Hawasly, a New York-based video producer and Mizzou graduate who returns each year to help solve the workshop's IT solutions. "We are pretty much limited to whatever space there is and whatever internet connectivity they have to offer."

"One year, actually, the whole town didn't have any connection faster than 5 mbps, and that was tough," he said. "We have to adapt, and we have less than a day to figure it out."

By the time the weeklong workshop concludes, more than 15,000 images have been processed, 400 large prints have been made, and 850GB of data has been created. All of the images have to be organized, renamed and catalogued. Dozens of hours of video is shot by a workshop crew that produces a documentary film about the week's experience.

All of that data must be backed up throughout the week, to ensure the archive is available to future generations of visual journalists. All published work is then presented at the end of the week to the community at a public viewing, and displayed on the Missouri Photo Workshop's website.

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A photo taken during the weeklong workshop.

Image: Michael Cali/Missouri Photo Workshop