Photo Story on Russian Pastor by Don Rutledge

© Don Rutledge

I went back today looking at the coverage that Don Rutledge did in Russia in the 1980s.  Don more than anyone I ever knew could tap into the subconscious of the audience through symbolism.

I love the photo of one of the pastors in Russia with the kids. What really makes the photo even more is the artwork of “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci on the wall behind them.

I remember sitting with Don as he projected each of those Kodachrome slides on the wall. Take a look at these of a pastor and his family that he followed for a day.

The Berlin Wall was still up at the time and most Americans views of the Russians was based on our perceptions than on reality. Don wanted to show how much we have in common with the people.

Once the audience can relate to the subject then the message can come through. You can see how Don starts by first establishing the father’s role as a pastor. Then he shows the role of the mother cooking and taking care of the family, just as many women do here in our country.

© Don Rutledge

I was fascinated how Don talked about just showing the teenagers room he was showing how this would look like many of the teenagers here in the states rooms might look.

© Don Rutledge

Here he shows how while dad is working on his sermon his son is working on his homework.

© Don Rutledge

Here we see the family being just as curious as anyone would be as to what is inside the box.

© Don Rutledge

Here the kids are playing follow the leader. What is important to me was hearing how excited Don was about how similar the families were to Americans. Don’s excitement was truly childlike.

© Don Rutledge

I was feeling the love that a father has for his family as the photos continued. Here the children play tag with their dad.

© Don Rutledge

Here we see the children conniving and being mischievous in plotting something against their dad.

Lesson from Don Rutledge

  • Give your subjects honor, dignity and respect
  • Look for visuals that can be included in the frame to drive home a message
  • Leave things out of the frame that are distracting
  • Keep a child’s perspective and excitement
  • Look for visuals that cross over cultural and language barriers to connect the subject and audience
  • Know your gear well enough to capture moments as they happen with natural light
  • Be genuine and authentic with your subjects so that they give you permission to capture them in any setting because of the trust you have established and honor