When award-winning photojournalist and native son Joe Link shared his story with attendees of the 109th Kingdom of Callaway Supper Tuesday night, he let his pictures do much of the talking for him.
Tuesday night's guest of honor - son of the late Dick and Toni Link, born and raised on a farm south of Fulton - shared photographs ranging from a photo essay centered on his uncle Roy working the family farm while still a student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism to images captured during his tenure at the "Fulton Daily Sun Gazette."
A picture's worth 1,000 words
Black and white images of daily life around Callaway County - farmers feeding livestock or leaning on a hoe, fathers and mothers holding babies, children laughing and playing at the park, waitresses taking a break, athletic equipment at New Bloomfield High School, Miss Auxvasse being crowned, a Lion's Club meeting, a cozy chat on the front porch, a baby being baptized, lounging in the boat after a day of fishing, pitching horse shoes, taking in a ball game - flashed on the screen at Dulany Auditorium on the William Woods University campus while Link shared stories and talked about the people that influenced his upbringing.
"At the University of Missouri, I discovered photojournalism. The images of people seem to be mystical and timeless - they just touch me," Link said, noting he spent a lot of time flipping through his collection of old photos in preparation for the Kingdom Supper. "One way to look at them - how I used to look at them - is as a snapshot of the way life used to be. Now I look at it as, they're timeless because they express all the emotions we feel today and will for generations."
A number of the pictures were of Link's family: his grandfather - "a quiet man, hard worker" -with an axe to chop through ice so the cows could drink; his cousin Bob - "one of the hardest workers I've ever known" - pushing hay off the wagon, his father driving the tractor through a snowy field; his aunt preparing lunch for his uncle on a break from the farm. There was even a picture of himself in front of a mirror in college - "I just wanted everyone to know I did a selfie."
Link said one of his favorite photos is from that first journalism assignment - his uncle Roy pushing the barn door shut.
"That door is extremely heavy, and he would pull it open and shut several times a day," he said.
Link also shared anecdotes of his time as a student at the two-room Filmore School he attended with 2014 Kingdom Supper President Ron Elliott - making special note of his teachers, whom Link said provided an education he would "put up against anyone's."
He recalled learning what was coming in school by listening to the lessons of the grades ahead, yearly Christmas gifts to the bus driver, baseball games at recess, listening to the Cardinals beat the Yankees in the 1964 World Series on the teacher's radio and hearing about the Kennedy assassination on that same radio.
Link also talked about starting his journalism career in Callaway County - the last place he wanted to be just out of college.
"This turned out to be a wonderful place to start a career, and it wasn't just because I learned ... my skills, but because of what it taught me about life," he said.
Link said being selected as the guest of honor provided opportunity for plenty of such reminiscences.
"It's been a good chance to think about growing up here and the values I feel like I learned here that continue to guide me," Link said. "When I got my negatives out, it reminded me how much the people of this county have been to me. I owe a lot to you, so I want to thank you."
Earlier in the evening, during the reception at the Gladys Woods Kemper Art Center, Link said the event also has been an opportunity to reconnect with his Callaway friends - many of whom were in the crowd packed in around him.
"It's overwhelming. Seeing so many old friends, it's just been great," he said. "It's mainly been about seeing people and reconnecting - this has made me realize I want to come back (and visit in the fall)."