The Compassionate Photographer Understands Eye Contact

Psalm 119:18

Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things …

If you are in the service industry most likely you have been trained and understand the importance of eye contact.

Eye Contact is an important part of using effective communication skills.
People are more likely to comply when more eye contact is used.
Eye Contact establish a connection between the person.
Eye contact also tells us that whether the other person is paying attention or not.
Maintaining eye contact during communication will make your presentation much more effective.

Now when I started to encounter other cultures I couldn’t understand why some people didn’t give me eye contact. Come to find out as a man having eye contact with a single woman means you intend to marry them. In many cultures it is shown as sign of respect not to look you in the eye.

I mention the culture differences because like everything you have to understand your context. You don’t want to do something that you think is the correct way to behave only to find out you were offending people or now must marry someone.

When your listeners see your eyes scanning their faces, they feel invited to engage with you. They feel encouraged to signal to you how they feel about what you’re saying–with nods, frowns, or skeptical raise of their eyebrows.

San Benito, Nicaragua

As a result, your listeners are transformed from passive receivers to active participants. Your monologue takes the form of a dialogue, albeit one in which you speak words while they speak with gestures and facial expressions. Your speech or presentation is suddenly a conversation.

When I am in a culture and don’t speak the language all I have is my body language and most important eye contact and facial expressions to communicate. I use this to ask for permission to photograph.

Hello there little guy. I am sure he is wondering who is the big white dude with a camera in my face doing in my church today in Adeti-Kope, Togo, West Africa

Now depending on your perspective you change the conversation. When you look down on the little boy like here you put the camera in the position that is most associated with an adult over a child. The adult is responsible for that child. This is a great way to create empathy for a subject.

This graphic demonstrates the parent to child relationship. This next one show the child to a parent relationship.

Don Rutledge enjoys telling a story at the first gathering of the SBC photographers at Ridgecrest, North Carolina.

Now here I am slightly lower than the eyes of Don Rutledge as he is talking which gives him the position of authority.

His expression can make him look like a warm or cold leader, but because I am looking up at him I have designated him as an authority.


When you are eye to eye with another adult we call this being on their level like a good friend.

Now the interesting thing to me is if you are an adult and get on eye level with kids it does something else. It makes those who are viewing the photograph equal to a child, which makes them tap into those remembrances of being a child.

Vili Village just outside of Koudougou, Burkina Faso.

The child’s head while looking down shows modesty or lack of self confidence, guilt etc. In other words her body posture adds another layer of meaning to the photograph beyond me trying to be on her same level by being at eye level with her.

Matthew 6:22

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”