Photography from a Missionary’s Perspective

Missions Photography in South Asia

Back in 2007, Rowan and a few friends came to visit me in an isolated South Asian location to spend almost a week digitally capturing light in a dark place that needs Jesus. Not exactly a place that is on any photographer’s bucket list of places to shoot! As a single woman [at that time] living in an oppressive environment for females, and at a time when I was struggling with culture shock and other stressors, I remember looking at the photos afterwards and feeling like I saw a new hope and beauty through what they had forever captured in a moment of time.

At the time, my friends asked me, “Why would these photographers want to come take pictures of us and our country? There isn’t anything special here!” “Yes there is – God created you and this place and it’s beautiful and other people want to see it and pray for you!” I would say. And so true. Now, guests to my home enjoy seeing their own people and beautiful land in professional photographs. They stand out because all they are used to seeing is photos from their cheap mobile phones.

Missions Photography in South Asia

An album filled with hundreds of Rowan’s pictures comes with us to share on our display table when we go on furloughs. Let’s admit it, we have all scanned a missionary’s update and only looked at the pictures and captions. It’s hard to get these shots myself when I’m sitting and having tea or praying for someone at the local shrine. Good thing I have professional pictures on hand when I need to generate prayer and tell the stories of what God is doing! :) Another way we have used these pictures is to protect the security of Jesus-seekers we are in contact with. We have emailed out a face to represent that person seeking Jesus and have people print out and pray for that person with their “psedo-pic” whenever they see it hung up.

Missions Photography in South Asia

A neat memory I have from the trip is that as a woman I couldn’t go into the mosque, but I really wanted Rowan and the guys to experience it and get some pictures if it seemed appropriate and not offensive. So they went in not knowing what to expect and a man who spoke some English showed them around and let them shoot a little bit before others asked them to leave since it was time to pray. The trip fell during Ramadan (month of fasting for Muslims) and everyone was slower paced during the day but also sitting around more and waiting for the call to prayer. Every time Rowan would pull out his camera an immediate crowd would form and have lots of questions and we got in to some neat discussions.

Missions Photography in South Asia

Other ideas of ways you could bless a missionary by taking a photography trip to their location are to offer a photo shoot and design an updated prayer card for them. A meaningful event that happened in the ministry might be able to be re-enacted. Maybe you could give them a few tips on taking better pictures with their own cameras. Perhaps they could set up a workshop you could give to locals so they could start a small business for shooting weddings and taking passport photos. That’s becoming a big deal where we live but most of these photographers have not had any training. Bless a missionary with photography skills as you are sensitive to their needs and expectations. You could even bless an entire mission organization because they often desperately need real photos from the field for their brochures and websites.

This post was written by a missionary from a closed country in Asia. Obviously we can’t tell you more than that!

Check out the other posts in this series:

5 Reasons to Go on a Short Term Missions Trip

A Vision for Missions Photography

5 Lessons on Missions Photography from a Pro

What I Learned on My Summer Missions Trip

An IPS Student in Africa

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