Introducing Gerry James and Explore Kentucky

Hello everyone, my name is Gerry James. I am a recent graduate (December 2013!!) of Mass Communication at Campbellsville University and currently work as a social media/PR strategist. Over the past few years, I've become a published journalist and photographer with hopes to pursue a MFA in photography at either at University of Louisville or University of Kentucky this coming fall.

I am elated to be part of The Kaintuckeean. Why ?

Because I'm a huge fan of Peter Brackney's conservation and community work. Because I totally enjoy being part of anything that promotes Kentucky. And because I am absolutely head-over-heels, hold-the-boombox-overhead in love with Kentucky.

So in love that I started a project called Explore Kentucky. I must come clean: I was born in Wisconsin and have lived in Kentucky for less than 4 years. After Air Force reserve training, I came here to be with my sweetheart at the time who had just started college in Kentucky, but found a deeper passion: an affection for the Fifteenth State.

When I first flew into Louisville, I was intrigued by the sheer beauty of the state spotting that sprawling metropolis bordered by a sea of green. An 80+ mile ride through that sea into central Kentucky was amazing as the modern cityscape of Louisville transitioned into giant hills, horse farms, and beautiful small towns.

Arriving in Campbellsville, I was struck by how Campbellsville University is an ├╝ber-modern college campus located in a small town with a strong historic downtown and a church on every corner. Campbellsville's Taylor County thrives on farming and serves as the home for manufacturers of parts for Toyota cars, church steeples, military uniforms and more. Taylor County also moonlights as a major vacation destination thanks to Green River Lake.

Although classmates lamented the lack of access to "ready-made fun" like malls, the city, etc., I embraced Kentucky. I joined the volunteer fire squad. I explored and documented life in the community. I became involved. I was apart of a student radio broadcast team that covered the 2012 presidential debate at Centre College. I helped start a community movement for historic downtown Campbellsville, worked with Taylor County Tourism, was apart of student film crew that assisted the great Jason Lyle Garrett in shooting a short film in a beautiful 19th century Somerset home, and as a photojournalist covered school events like our 2012 spring formal at Louisville's Frazier Museum.

My undergraduate weekends were spent adventuring either solo or with friends around Kentucky. Traversing across Knob State Forest in Bullitt County. Daydreaming about the Civil War on the battlefields at Perryville. Determining whether the Land Between the Lake's "monster" was real. Getting spooked in a Confederate war cemetery in Wingo. Dancing the night away at concerts in Louisville. Participating in the world's largest water balloon fight. Picking tobacco. There is so much to do in Kentucky.

Before coming to Kentucky, I pictured a giant Mayberry full of Gomer Pyles ( that what is the media portrays Kentucky as). My journey to become a professional communicator, coupled with my adventures, led me to become an advocate for Kentucky and to advocate against this limited vision. Kentucky's people are so diverse.

Skilled in traditional crafts as well as in science, film-making, and photography, the people of Kentucky are wonderful. When working the social media center during the 2012 Super Bowl, many were blown away that a Kentucky college kid would be equipped with enough knowledge to work at one of the world's biggest sporting events.

I attribute my success to God, my parents, my professors, and everyone I've met across the Commonwealth. It, and they, have shaped and molded me as I've experienced the essence of Unbridled Spirit.

This past October, I launched Explore Kentucky to provide Kentuckians and its visitors a platform to share how they perceive Kentucky. As a photographer and lover of social media, it is the perfect time for everyone with a smartphone or digital camera to share their vision of the world around them. Social networking has connected our world in such a grand way, that a picture shot in Wingo, Kentucky can be uploaded and viewed by someone in China in mere milliseconds.

The power of interconnectedness can bring humanity together to learn more about each other and help to end harmful stereotypes. Since launching the project:

The purpose of Explore Kentucky is to showcase adventures in Kentucky so that a true representation of the Commonwealth can be had. I aim to inspire pride and establish a community of explorers within Kentucky. Ultimately, I plan to create a documentary from all the insta-videos submitted to form a cohesive visual narrative about Kentucky.

I really believe Kentucky deserves to be highlighted and considered among the coolest places in the world. Most of all, I love the way people are taking pride and marveling at the imagery captured by their fellow Kentuckians.

To participate in Explore Kentucky, just fire up your smartphone, camera, or whatever you've got, snap a photo/shoot a video, and upload it via Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook with the hashtag #ExploreKentucky! A website is coming soon where you'll be able to find a live feed of the images as well as learn more about both the project and the film.

I look forward to seeing how you #ExploreKentucky!
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