humanitarian photographer [day 63 & 64]

I went to the Echo conference this week at Watermark Church.  (#echo10 on Twitter)  As I was looking at the list of speakers, I noticed many good ones, but one stood out to me.

I’m not sure if it was her quirky photo or the words ‘humanitarian photographer’ that got my attention, maybe both, but I was curious about Esther Haven.  Of all of the breakout sessions available, I was most excited about going to hers, and let me say, it was no disappointment.   Through her own experiences, she shared things that every photographer should know and consider when taking photos of people.  It’s not about just taking a photo, it’s about getting to know the people in the photographs.  I took some sporadic notes in her session, as I was completely captured by her images and had to actually remember to put the pen to paper.

Take a look at her website. Here’s one of her amazing photos.

Here are some of my notes, which probably contain more questions than anything, but are some very important things to ponder.

what kind of pics r we taking?

think about being in their shoes.  how do they feel about you taking their photo?  have you interacted with them?

negative and positive of stories, choose how to portray each

what is our job when we take missions pics?  do we stop and help?  do we get involved?  minister to them?

being a photojournalist, do not alter the story, record the story.  don’t move them or set situations.

why are you taking photos?  are you trying to tell a story?  do you want to communicate to change something?  are you taking photos just for you?

how does God see the people you’re photographing?

we are not our circumstance.

ask your subjects how they want to be portrayed?

how does God see this person and their story?  we can help them through photos?

what is our motivation for taking the photo?  is it to get a good photo that you like or to communicate a story?

look up wiki on humanitarian

good stories or good neighbors?  it’s about the relationships.

be a voice for people.  listen to the people

give the camera to the kids or to the people

awareness without action is pointless

it’s not just a job, it’s a ministry

Here’s an example she used in her session.  Kevin Carter, a Pulitzer prize winner for this photo in 1994, didn’t stop to help this starving child.  Shortly after, Kevin ended up committing suicide, the note he left behind saying how he was haunted by the things he had seen.

Her session really made me rethink about the way I do photography.  I do take pictures to communicate a story, but I don’t always stop to interact.  Surprisingly, I do stop more with people than I do my ‘trash’ situations like Tom, the homeless guy or Flo, the ghost of Christmas future.

Not just as a photographer, but in any occupation, do we allow a job to separate us from who we are ?  I work for a church, and even I’ve done that on many occasions.  I sometimes hide behind my camera, creating a barrier between me and the rest of the world, not because I don’t want to help, but to keep me in my comfort zone.  As in many of my earlier posts, I’m becoming more uncomfortable with comfort.

Yesterday, Esther reminded me what it’s all about.  When I do a photo shoot, I have a new outlook on what I’m doing.  When shooting for or taking images for my ‘no retail shopping’ challenge, I need to be a part of helping in the story.  I need to do more than pick up the piece of trash, I need to figure out a way to help change the situation and tell the story in a healthy way.  Thanks Esther!

About jody wissing

I'm a person just trying to matter in a crazy world.
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1 Response to humanitarian photographer [day 63 & 64]

  1. Deb McFarland says:

    WOW…that’s deep. I can definitely understand how the picture of that child starving would haunt a man for the rest of his life. Hard to look at.
    Good job Jody!

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