Pearsall got her start as an Air Force photographer at the age of 17. During her time in service, she traveled to over 41 countries, and attended the Military Photojournalism Program at S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. During three combat tours, she earned the Bronze Star Medal and Air Force Commendation with Valor for combat actions in Iraq. Though combat disabled and retired from military service, Pearsall continues to work worldwide as an independent photographer, and is an author, educator, military consultant, public speaker and founder of the Veterans Portrait Project.
Pearsall was one of only two women to win National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Military Photographer of the Year competition, and the only woman to have earned it twice. She’s been awarded the Trojan Labor American Hero Award, honored with the Daughters of the American Revolution Margaret Cochran Corbin Award, lauded by the White House as a Champion of Change, and holds an honorary doctoral degree from The Citadel. Pearsall has served as a nominating juror for the Pulitzer Prize and held a presidential-appointed board member position for the NPPA.
The PDN “Personal Project” award-winning series Veterans Portrait Project (VPP) began while Pearsall rehabilitated from combat injuries sustained in Iraq. Spending hours in VA waiting rooms surrounded by veterans from every generation and branch of service, Pearsall was compelled to honor and thank them in the only way she knows how, photography. She’s traveled coast to coast with the VPP and has documented roughly 5,000 veterans in over 100+ engagements.
Me Ra is affectionately known as The Photo Mom,is the leading photography expert and educator to moms with cameras.
She is proud to be one of the original select SONY Artisans of Imagery since 2007 and hosts the Disney Junior TV show Capture Your Story with Me Ra Koh, empowering moms and children to capture their everyday life. She is the author of the national bestselling series, Your Baby in Pictures: The New Parents’ Guide to Photographing Your Baby’s First Year and Your Child in Pictures: The Parents’ Guide to Photographing Your Toddler and Child from Age One to Tenand Your Family in Pictures: The Parents’ Guide to Photographing Holidays, Family Portraits, and Everyday Life. Me Ra is also the guest photography expert for Live with Kelly, Oprah’s The Nate Berkus Show, and Lifetime Television. Her writing, photography and photo recipes have been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, VH1, and Martha Stewart Living, as well as in theNew York Times, Weight Watchers, Parenting, American Baby, Women’s World, Associated Press, Huffington Post, Popular Photography, American Photo, and CLICK.
For over a decade, women have travelled from all over the world to attend her 2-Day CONFIDENCE Photography Workshop in Dallas. Her award-winning photography has been exhibited from coast to coast. Her Egypt photography was given the honor of being on exhibit in The Natural History Museum in NYC. She works closely with partners like Disney, SONY, Sesame Street, Southwest Airlines, select travel companies, and Target to find ways to inspire the creative hearts of women. You can even find her at your local Target and Best Buy!
Me Ra is a sought after, inspirational keynote speaker who brings empowerment, humor and tears to all her audiences. She is afraid of escalators in big cities, scuba diving and rock climbing, but she does all three (unless an elevator is nearby). Find her at www.merakoh.com.
Gabriel Tait, Ph.D.
Gabriel Tait, Ph.D. currently is a professor of Journalism at Ball State University. Dr. Tait received his BA from Slippery Rock University, MA and PhD from Asbury Theological Seminary.
Prior to attending seminary, Dr. Tait served 25-plus years as a national and international newspaper photojournalist covering events in many countries for the Detroit Free Press and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. In 2000, he was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He has won numerous photojournalism awards from NPPA, the Associated Press, and the National Association of Black Journalist. Dr. Tait carries his real-life experience into the classroom to teach and mentors his students.
His research areas include photojournalism, diversity and media, visual research methods, participatory photography, and the impact of photography in cross-cultural context constructing and representing cultural identities. Dr. Tait created his visual research methodolgycalled, “Sight Beyond My Sight” (SBMS). SBMS is a method that is based on the biblical narrative found in (Mark 8:22-25). SBMS uses ethnographic photography to learn about local cultures from members within the culture. His method is currently being used in as an interdisciplinary visual research method.
In 2017, Dr. Tait authored “Really Social Photojournalism” and a Photojournalistic Changing of the Guard: Observations and Insights. He also co-authored, Citizen Framing of #Ferguson on Twitter. His co-authored article Arethey the Greatest?: A Visual Comparative Analysis of Muhammad Ali and Maya Angelou Published in America’s Newspaperswas recently published in Visual Communication Quarterly.
In religious studies Dr. Tait has published several book chapters on Missions and Evangelism including: “The Missionary and the Camera: Developing an Ethic for Contemporary Missionary Photographers,” and “Understanding the Importance of Diversity in Missions: An African American Perspective.” He has also presented his scholarly and creative work at numerous conferences, VCQ, The Journal of Social Media in Society, the Encyclopedia of Christianity, and other journals. He is currently working on his co-edited book—Narratives is Cultural Storytelling.
Dr. Tait and his wife Erica, have two sons, a daughter and a rescue dog named Boots.
Garrett Hubbard believes that there is an unquenchable thirst for authentic stories in our world. He produces real stories through both video and still photography to connect his clients with their audience because we live in the most visually literate society history has ever known. This is why visual storytelling is such a relevant and effective way to connect people to a brand, idea, and mission.
Garrett learned from some of the best storytellers out there—journalists. He spent five years cultivating a documentary and narrative driven video style mixed with an artful photographic vision as the Senior Video Journalist at USA TODAY. This work has taken him to the White House, the Olympics, The Royal Wedding, and many other places around the world. Prior to joining the USA TODAY staff, he had the opportunity to tell stories for The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Garrett’s work has been honored by some of the most prestigious awards in marketing and journalism including the National Press Photographers Association and White House News Photographers Association. These awards have landed him in the Oval Office twice to shake the President’s hand (Garrett opted instead for a fist bump and a high-five).
Garrett is grateful for mentors and friends who have invested in his life story. He loves Jesus, his wife, his kids, and his neighbors. Other things in life that bring him great joy include avocados, Californians, and mountain biking. See more about Garrett at his website: garretthubbard.com
Bill Fortney is a photographer, writer, pilot, and highly sought after presenter with over 47 years of experience in-the-field. Bill has done professional work as a newspaper and magazine photojournalist, sports photographer, (once an official photographer for the Washington Redskins), medical photographer, and nature/landscape photographer. Bill’s best selling books include; The Nature of America (with David Middleton), American Vision (with David Middleton, John Shaw and Wayne Lynch), America From 500 Feet (with Wesley Fortney), Bill Fortney’s Great Photography Workshop. America From 500 Feet II (with Mark Kettenhofen). Bill’s books have sold well over 150,000 copies, placing him on the list of best selling photographer/authors in America. Bill has been named a Fellow by the North American Nature Photographers Association.
Bill currently teaches for KelbyOne as a speaker/teacher. Bill teaches His Light Workshops, a Christian based workshop company and with Jack Graham Photography Workshops. Bill has been named as a X-Photographer by Fujifilm and use the Fuji X-System. You can learn more about Bill, his workshops and view his work at: www.billfortney.com
Bill, and his wife Sherelene, live in Corbin, Kentucky, and have three grown children and 6 grandchildren.
Photographer, County Music Hall of Fame
Country Hall of Fame musician Ricky Skaggs will be joining the conference as a special guest. Skaggs who is also a photographer will present his images from his travel.
By age 21, Skaggs was already considered a “recognized master” of one of America’s most demanding art forms, but his career took him in other directions, catapulting him to popularity and success in the mainstream of country music. His life’s path has taken him to various musical genres, from where it all began in bluegrass music, to striking out on new musical journeys, while still leaving his musical roots intact. Ricky struck his first chords on a mandolin over 50 years ago, and this 15-time Grammy Award winner continues to do his part to lead the recent roots revival in music.
Today, Skaggs has taken up photography and now travels with his camera as he said in a 2015 interview: I love photography and I am a photographer so I go out and do quite a bit of photography work — I take my cameras with me all the time. And so, I love doing that. …. it’s taught me how to see. Music teaches me how to listen; this teaches me how to see. And how to understand. Of course, I’m always looking for the light, where’s the light? And that represents Jesus, to me, you know, the “Light of the World”, Jesus said. So it’s spiritual for me, as well, because I always want to see what God sees in something. If I can capture what He sees, then it will bless somebody.
Interview with Parker Roe for the lotscene.com
With 12 consecutive Grammy-nominated classics behind him, all from his own Skaggs Family Records label (Bluegrass Rules! in 1998, Ancient Tonesin 1999, History of the Future in 2001, Soldier of the Cross, Live at the Charleston Music Hall,and Big Mon: The Songs of Bill Monroe in 2003, Brand New Strings in 2005,Instrumentals in 2007, Salt of the Earth with The Whites in 2008, Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass: Tribute to 1946 and 1947 in 2009 and Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Lovedalong with Mosaicin 2010), the diverse and masterful tones made by the gifted Skaggs come from a life dedicated to playing music that is both fed by the soul and felt by the heart.