A New Adventure: Photojournalist for Children's Relief

Hey friends!

Did you know the Gospel writer Luke was essentially a journalist? It blew my mind when I learned this. Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the book of the Acts of the Apostles by shadowing the disciples, documenting their work, and interviewing them to get their eyewitness accounts of the life of Christ. His journalistic efforts and accounts in his Gospel and in Acts have changed countless lives over the centuries. I know they have certainly changed mine. But not only that they have inspired me on my journey as a journalist and storyteller.

I want to tell you about this journey and how God burdened me to do something similar to Luke – to be an agent for change by documenting the work of God around the world.

Let me step back a few years. By the end of college, I knew without a doubt that the Lord called me to pursue photojournalism for missions. With this conviction, I enrolled at Dallas Theological Seminary in the Media Arts and Worship program. While I worked on my Masters, I sharpened my skills as a visual storyteller and developed a strong biblical and theological foundation.

A few months after graduation, I met Children’s Relief International, through a good friend who interned with them. I immediately fell in love with their vision, to take the light of Christ to the poor of our time. Their determination to accomplish this invigorated me, as well as their strong conviction that the poor deserve to have their stories told with excellence and with dignity. Our hearts for the Gospel and for the poor were aligned perfectly.

After a few weeks of prayer and consulting friends and mentors, I picked up the phone and made the call. I accepted the job. Now, I serve as their Photojournalist & Missionary for CRI.

What does this look like?

Before I explain my role, let me throw this bit of information in. One of my favorite things about Children’s Relief is that we work with national/local church leaders. In other words, we don’t just go in as foreigners to start our own programs, but we partner with national leaders and churches overseas to help them reach their community with the Gospel. This is where I come in – throughout the year I will travel to our different projects around the world to meet with our international staff. I get to sit down, listen, and document the stories of the Lord’s work – just like Luke.

To do this I need your help.

I can’t do this on my own and I don’t want to. One thing I love about support raising is the community that rallies around you. So I want to invite you to join my financial support team. I am 70% of the way there and would love to have you come alongside me in this. By partnering with me, we will create a ripple effect as we accomplish God’s work – like dropping a pebble in a pond. Like Luke, if we faithfully share our stories of God at work in the lives of the poor, than we too, in our own small way, can change dozens and dozens of lives for eternity. With photojournalism, we won’t just document stories, but we will document stories to change lives. All this to say- I am stoked and I would be honored to have you partner with me.

What can you do next?

1.     To join my support team, click here. You will find my name listed under "Missionaries". 

2.     To join my prayer team and receive a newsletter every two months, sign up here

3.     Have a question? Ask away. Email me at Ashley@childrensrelief.org

For Photographers: Week 2 How to Win Friends and Influence People

Another great chapter to discuss for this week! I have decided to add something to these posts. It will help me process, as well as help all of you to see how I am processing to help you reflect on your photography businesses. With each of the questions I put forth, I am going to share some of my ramblings about how I am looking to be intentional with my relationships revolving around photography. When I am reading these chapters I am thinking not just about my clients, but other fellow photographers as well. So here we go, week 2!

Principle 2: Give honest and sincere appreciation

  1. Everyone desires to feel loved and appreciated. How can I make others (clients and others in my photography circle of influence) feel important/loved/appreciated? As I began to chew on this question, I started realizing throughout the chapter the value of listening. He does not directly address it, but I cannot help but think that in order to give sincere appreciation, we must listen and ask questions. Practically what this looks like for me is when I am emailing with clients, I will ask friendly, light-hearted questions to get to know them. I try my hardest to schedule a face to face consultation with each client before a shoot to not just brainstorm ideas, but get to know them as a person and develop trust and a comfortable atmosphere. Also I think giving sincere compliments and not just flattering them stems out of listening and asking questions. Something I want to do now is make a list of about 3-5 questions- some of them deep, some light-hearted to get to know the person I am with on a deeper level and serve them better. 
  2. How can I show others that I appreciate them? I've got two thoughts for this one. First, this is something I have realized I have to be very intentional about. I am an introverted, task-oriented person, so I sometimes get so focused on an assignment I forget about the people I am doing it for. Also, as I am typing this I realize I can use my introverted nature as a strength. I love one-on-one over group situations.  This is great because I can use this in my consultations with clients. Second, I have seen several photography friends do this and I am taking this chapter as a challenge to start it myself.  I like the idea of giving little gifts and a handwritten note when I deliver my products. Handwritten notes mean so much to me, so I feel like it would mean much to others. 
  3. Here is a reflective question: What is it that makes me feel important/loved/appreciated? When I think about this, it helps me learn how to appreciate others. Here is a bit of honesty for ya, a pet peeve of mine is when people compliment me by just saying I am "sweet". I hear that word so often, I now wonder what people mean by it. Sometimes, not always, it cam come off as an empty comment, a space-filler. All of this to say, I appreciate compliments that have thought put into them, that shows they have seen a part of the depths of who I am. I also feel loved when people ask me questions. Im not talking about the "how are you?" that you blurt out real quick while passing in the hallway, I am talking about the lets-talk-for-a-few-minutes-how-are-you-really-doing, full eye contact and everything. 

So there are my thoughts! Can't wait to hear what all of you think. Again, I encourage you if you would like to dive further into these principles from the book, go buy it! It is a great read and I have had several photography friends and mentors recommend this to me. You don't need the book to partake in this discussion, but it would certainly enhance it.

Please comment below and let me know what you think about these questions and this principle. I would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay tuned for next Friday's discussion!

DTS Creativity Cafe

This was my first art exhibit to ever be a part of. It was an honor and a humbling experience. Nothing can quite describe getting to not only have your work displayed in an exhibit but getting to watch people interact with your pieces and share your stories with them. Such an inspirational night getting to know other artists and listen to their artistic journeys. Listed below are the pieces on display.

"Mugumu Men". Mugumu, Tanzania, 2012. 

"Serengeti Sunrise". Mugumu, Tanzania, 2012. 

"Serengeti Hunt". Mugumu, Tanzania, 2012. 

"End of a Day's Work". Lilongwe, Malawi, 2012. 

"Coming Together" by National Geographic Photographer, Joanna B Pinneo

The genesis of the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference grew out of a desire for photographers working in the Southern Baptist agencies around the country to get together, share our work, stories and support one another. There was a small band of us back some 30 years ago and we treasured the fun and support when we got together. As our little group grew we wanted to expand the fellowship and gathering with other photographers.  From the very first the deal was that our egos were left at the door! The conference grew organically, attracting others by both the spirit and the level of professionalism.

Today as the conference keeps expanding we come together to hear about other’s adventures, spiritual challenges, growth and blessings. We learn that we are not alone in our journey. We receive encouragement, prayers, and gentle counseling.  Many of us experience an “Ah Ha” moment at some point during the conference. SWPJC is a gathering of both the experienced and the budding photographer. Each learns from the other.

 One of the most meaningful parts of my journey as a young photographer was the other photographers and editors that took the time to mentor and help me. My first “real” job as a photographer was with the International Mission Board. Staff photographer Don Rutledge and Commission Magazine editor, Dan Beatty, spent many hours looking at my work and offering guidance. If I can approach the level of time and commitment to other photographers on a similar journey I will feel like I have made a contribution. I owe much to these gentle men.

 Some of my favorite time at the SWPJC is when we are just sitting around talking with each other – both the joking and laughter as well as discussing the struggles we have had and sharing our hopes and dreams. I love huddling over a cup of coffee and finding out what’s been going on with my long time friends. One-on-one with students and young photographers has it’s own reward. The combinations of interactions and connections made are restorative to the spirit.

SWPJC continues to offer an environment of caring and learning; a coming together of photographers who want to make a difference with their work and strive to serve. 

To get involved with the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference, click here. 

To view more of Joanna's work, visit her website here.

Joanna B. Pinneo's work is a respectful portrayal of humanity and dignity of people around the world.  In 34 years Joanna has worked in 66 countries, her photographs appearing in Time, LIFE, National Geographic,Smithsonian, New York Times, Geo, and Stern. Joanna was nominated for a Pulitzer, won an Alfred Eisenstadt award, and featured in National Geographic’s 50 greatest photographs. Joanna is part Ripple Effect Images, a group of photographers who document the programs that are empowering women and girls, photographing their daily life as they battle to save the family and their community.  Joanna is author of the forthcoming book, Guardians of Memory, Stories Behind the Photographs.

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Lights Camera Love Part II: From a Good Photographer to the Best

How would you respond if a photographer walked up to you and asked if she could photograph your family for an assignment in a Muslim magazine? Dorothy Greco came face to face with this situation during one of her first assignments as a young photojournalist. At the age of 23, she received her first yearlong assignment for a Christian magazine. She boarded her flight and set across the Pacific to London, England, and searched for a Muslim family to photograph.

Why would a Muslim family welcome a Christian photojournalist into their home? How would she connect with them? Why would they trust her? After a week searching around London, an imam and his family welcomed her in. Twenty-four hours later, Dorothy returned to her hotel room humbled and amazed.

How did she build that trust and connection? To become a great photographer, you need more than the Photoshop skills and the knowledge of light. You need to connect with people. The deeper relationship you build with your subjects, the better storyteller you become.

Practical Tips to Develop Photographer/Subject Relationships:

  • Manual Focus: Months or weeks before you go off on assignment, research the culture you will be diving into.  Brainstorm ways to relate, connect, and build relationships. Ask questions, listen, read, and take notes. 
  • Focus Your Lens: Before you set out on assignment, take a breath. Spend 30 seconds, a minute, or even an hour to get focused. You’ve done the research, now step out there.
  • Put Down the Camera: Charge the batteries, grab the memory cards, organize the lenses and camera bodies.  Set the camera bag down.  Put the phone away, let the emails go unanswered for a few hours and get to know the people.  Spend some time working beside them and serving them. 
  • Develop the Photos: When you return back from your day of work, silence the doubts about your work. Put the obsession with perfection away in a dark closet, lock the door, and throw away the key.  Perfectionism destroys assignments, steals joy, and can harm people. Don’t try to be the best. Give your best. 

Lights, Camera, Love Part I: A Photojournalist’s Take on What Makes a Great Artist

As a child, I would slide out the dusty photo boxes from underneath my parents’ bed and scatter the photos across the rosy carpet. I saw my mom and dad suited up in camo gear, fresh from the morning hunt, skinning bucks. I discovered my dad’s teenage years sporting bell-bottom blue jeans and an afro hairstyle. I laughed at my brother in his cooking lessons with a giant mushroom on his head. And I blushed at the sight of my butt-naked baby pictures that showed me drinking from the backyard hose. There is nothing like a good picture to tell a story. And that’s why I decided to pursue photojournalism.

It was from these photos that I learned about my family. I got to meet people, like my grandfather, whom I never knew. As I grew older, I loved meeting people and just hearing their stories: the teenage breakups, the first kiss, the volleyball championships, and art competitions. A good story is the photographer’s adrenaline rush. But unfortunately, as I soaked in these stories, I got lost in the rush and forgot the irreplaceable piece of every good story: the people.

Recently in my photography journey, however, I had to relearn one basic life principle: we must love people.  Photojournalists search long and hard for a good story, but the secret to capturing stories is not hidden in any special formula. We find the stories when we love people.

I am not talking about the love we use to describe our favorite type of cake. The love I have in mind is more than just about a favorite pair of shoes, or a dream home. This love listens when you want to snap a quick photo. Love puts down the camera, to comfort a hurting friend. Love waits until they know you care. People want to open up to and show their deepest sores. No amount of energy or time could drown it out. This love breathes hope into a broken story. In this love, a person finds rest, safety, and strength. When a person burned by the past speaks, it cools their scorched hearts. Through the ebbs and flows of conversation, this love touches the most jagged of souls, molding them into smooth stones.  

Only love can capture authentic stories. Out of this innocent love for people, I fell in love with photos as a child. The photos underneath my parents' bed were like the children's photo books that all my friends read at night. When I scattered the family photos on that rosy carpet, I traveled back in time. I smelled the trail of my grandpa’s cigarette smoke as he walked the farm. I heard my mom fire the 22 from the deer stand. I walked alongside my dad in his bell-bottom blue jeans. I slurped my brother’s soups from a spoon during his cooking classes. 

Love. That’s what makes a great artist.