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An IPS Student in Africa

Summer Missions Trip Photography

This January the Lord graciously opened the doors to a six month overseas opportunity. I was asked to photograph hospital work and everyday life over in Kenya, Africa at Tenwek Hospital. It was an incredible learning experience as I had never done this type of work before! I saw God use my camera in ways I never could of expected. I was able to meet people and share a little of my story with complete strangers just because I was carrying a camera and they were curious.

Summer Missions Trip Photography

I was so encouraged to capture surgeries for the missionary surgeons to bring back for support raising and use to tell people how the Lord is working! The Lord used this to open my eyes to the great need of these people and created a spark in my heart to serve Kenya and wherever I am with my camera. What a thought! I can use what the Lord has gifted me in to serve and make connections with people who I have a language barrier with. I am so excited to use this new vision and my camera to spread the word to the nations.

Summer Missions Trip Photography
Rebecca Wesson
IPS Photojournalism Student

Summer Missions Trip Photography

Summer Missions Trip Photography

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

Photography from a Missionary’s Perspective

What I Learned on My Summer Missions Trip

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Photojournalism and Fruit

Summer Missions Trip Photography

Missions photojournalism is hard. It is joyful, amazing, exhilarating, and sometimes a bit like skydiving. But it is also hard. We see things more clearly, more vividly through a camera lens, and often what we see (particularly in third-world countries) is more disturbing than beautiful. Talk about intensified culture shock! To try to photograph something or someone in need, when we can’t speak their language and we can’t understand their situation? That can be really hard.

It’s also very different than “typical mission work.” It doesn’t meet immediate physical needs. Sometimes it feels like it invades privacy more than anything else. And the fruit looks different, is less immediate.

I knew that, in theory at least, before spending time overseas with a camera in my hands. But it wasn’t until I came home from one of those trips that I began to understand just how different it was to go somewhere to work with my hands, versus going somewhere with a camera in my hands.

Summer Missions Trip Photography

Three weeks in Kenya was a lot to process. Carol, her daughter, and I went to visit a school/orphanage run by local missionaries, primarily to see if this school was one that Carol could support on a long-term basis. I was there to do portraits for the roughly 400 children who lived and/or attended school there, as well as get bios on every one of them for a sponsorship program we hoped to start. Good work, right? Yes— very good work.

The children were beautiful. Their eyes expressive, their stories so unique. The school was interesting, and working there had rewards, mostly in getting to know the sweet, humble Christians who ran the operation. And the light!! There is nothing as visually delicious as golden hour in a third-world country… something about the dust and air pollution diffuses the light and spreads it out so that it seems to hang in the air like thick honey. I couldn’t get enough of it.

Summer Missions Trip Photography

We returned home after our trip, happy with a job well done. On our first Sunday back, I had a woman come up to me at Church and ask about my time there— “Was it wonderful? Did you just love those children? I bet your heart broke for them. Did you love playing with them every day? I bet it was soooo hard to leave them behind!”

I just stood there and stared at her, completely lost for words. But not for the reason one might think.

Did I love those children? Yes, absolutely. So much so that I spent every morning working with the classroom teachers to make sure that I could photograph all of those 400 children in a way that wouldn’t disrupt their studies and make them do worse on their exams, because their grade basically determines their occupational opportunities, and consequently, their entire future. And I loved them by not spending time with them when they should be studying.

Summer Missions Trip Photography

Did my heart break for them? Yes, it did. But more than that, it rejoiced to see how well God provided for them, which grew my understanding of He cares for me.

Did I love playing with them every day? Well, I played with them for about an hour and a half one afternoon. That is all. I spent my afternoons keywording and tagging photos taken that morning to make sure that I had the right names for all 400 kids, and then sitting down “interview style” with the school secretary to work on bios and histories for each of the kids we were attempting to sponsor. There wasn’t time to play with them… but that wasn’t the purpose for my time there. They had each other to play with, and other teachers. They needed me to photograph them, and to do it well.

Summer Missions Trip Photography

The biggest thing I learned from my time in Kenya was that missions photojournalism is hard, hard in ways different from a typical missions trip. I didn’t come away with stories of how I shared the Gospel to someone who didn’t know it, or how I loved on a child in need, or how I gave my Bible away, or conducted outreaches, or even how I served missionaries practically, by building something. I spent my time working on projects that wouldn’t bear fruit for months, or even years. Missions photojournalism, at least in my experience, is more like farming than fishing. There’s a whole lot of work that happens in the beginning, and then things are quiet for a long, long time. Eventually there are bits of green that pop up through the brown earth, and the green grows and matures and eventually produces harvest; but in that quiet waiting period, all I can do is wait and trust that God will make my faithfulness fruitful for His glory.

Summer Missions Trip Photography

Just like the sharing the Gospel. We are called to be faithful to speak the Gospel (literally, “good news”) of salvation to those who haven’t heard… and to those who have heard, and to those who already believe (you can never share it too often). God is the one who gives life, who wakens dead souls, who places His Spirit in us, who keeps us in the faith, and who brings His children home.

We can’t save anyone— it is God who gives fruit, in our missions work and in life. So we work faithfully, giving and investing wherever we can, and entrusting the rest to our very wise, capable, faithful God.

Sarah

 

Sarah Bradshaw is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Washington D.C. Please visit her blog at http://ampersandphotoblog.com/.

Check out our 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

Photography from a Missionary’s Perspective

What I Learned on My Summer Missions Trip

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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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Free Stock Photos for “Everyone”

Getty Images launched a new Embed Images tool to allow millions of bloggers around the world the ability to use amazing stock imagery for free for “non-commercial” use. In the words of Getty executive Craig Peters, “What we’re trying to do is take a behavior that already exists and enable it legally, then try to get some benefits back to the photographer primarily through attribution and linkage.”

That means I can now legally use a photo of Jennifer Lawrence and Matthew McConaughey at the Oscars, a photo that before could have cost me a pretty penny.

I’ve actually thought this concept was a great idea for stock photography companies for some time. The idea came to me after seeing how YouTube videos could be easily embedded anywhere, providing users with a massive library of video content, and providing YouTube with a massive stream of users. For stock photography companies this just makes sense – the bloggers who now have access to these images weren’t ever going to buy them, so Getty hasn’t lost a revenue stream. What they’ve gained is millions upon millions of new eyes on their content, people who potentially will buy images for other uses that are still sold for a premium.

The catch, of course, is going to be what constitutes “non-commercial” use. Again quoting Peters, “the fact […] that a website is generating revenue would not limit the use of the embed. What would limit that use is if they used our imagery to promote a service, a product or their business.” I suppose in the days ahead we will discover more of what it means to “promote a service, a product or their business.”

I wonder how the Getty contributors feel about their images suddenly being made available to the masses for free. How would you feel if Getty represented your life’s work and your income was now suddenly in jeopardy? Do you think this is a good move for the stock photography industry? Let me know below!

 

 

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Final day of the Countdown to PhotoEx!

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