There were many, many reasons why I was excited to attend the Together for Adoption conference and one of the biggies was meeting Esther Havens.
Esther is a humanitarian photographer who travels the world with different organizations helping them document their stories. I first started noticing her work a couple years ago through Charity: Water. She takes positively breath taking photos. Photos that are different although at the time I couldn’t pin point why.
Then I had the privilege of spending an hour on the phone with her one day and I began to understand why her photos are different. Because she is different.
She views her job differently than most photojournalist who are there to capture a moment. A newsworthy moment. And sadly because of the culture we have become those moments seem to be more and more about the sensationalistic and tragic images.
At her session at T4A Esther shared about her early experiences as a photographer and how God began to show her the beauty of the people she was photographing.
That is what makes her pictures so different. She sees the beauty in these people. She sets her camera down and takes time to talk with them and hear their stories. THEN she takes the photos. She showed us some awesome examples of what a person looked like before she talked with them and after. Totally different photographs as far as capturing the true spirit of a person.
Some thoughts I took away from her session:
- Pictures reflect what we see. If we see African people as sad and poverty-stricken then that’s how they’ll appear in our photos.
- How does God see this person? And can I help the subject see that?
- We are the avenue for them to tell their story. We need to “tell stories that change stories”.
- Can the photo really help them? Is it worth taking the shot? People are more important than photos.
- Awareness without action is pointless. Use your photos to tell a story and then tell people what they can do to help.
Esther drove home that last point by sharing the story of Watoto and her trip to Uganda to visit their project. They returned with photos and they used those photos to prompt action in two ways. First, there was an amazing display in the exhibit space that showed the photographs and told the subject’s story. Second, they offered people the chance to purchase a photo (the first time she’s done this) either at the exhibit (small postcards) or through Wallblank (check it out to read the stories as well.)
Thanks Esther for sharing your heart and for inspiring a group of people who want to use their photographs to tell stories that change stories.
P.S. If you want to hear more of Esther’s heart behind her photography there’s a great podcast on TechTock.