While covering the Transgender Parade, which is part of Atlanta Pride events, I watched as the people in the parade were reacting to each other like a family reunion.
I found everyone that I talked to very open. I was needing to get their information for writing captions for the photos I was taking.
Emily Graven, a UGA Photojournalism student, was shadowing me for the day. We met up with Robin Rayne who has been covering this event for many years to get some tips.
In looking for stories we spend time talking with people. When we have done a good job of building relationships with people they will come out of their shell.
What I find very important in being a good photojournalist is be present with people. This means you listen, laying down our defensiveness and agendas, and offering up empathy instead.
The most courageous thing we can do is listen. The bravest thing we can do is to stand with them.
I had learned about the concept of the ministry of presence through some pastoral counseling sessions and a great deal more when my wife was a chaplain at the VA hospital.
The ministry of presence is a way of “being” rather than of “doing” or “telling”.
My undergraduate degree was a B.S. in social work. It was this training that helped me be a better photojournalist. That coupled with my pastoral classes in seminary taught me how to prepare to be with others that are suffering is not to think about what to say or what to do. We are not anticipating how to react to certain situations that might develop.
We prepare by being present in the moment–The NOW.
To maintain objectivity in journalism, journalists should present the facts whether or not they like or agree with those facts. Objective reporting is meant to portray issues and events in a neutral and unbiased manner, regardless of the writers opinion or personal beliefs.
Now when I show up anywhere I am bringing all of me to that place. One of the greatest things to change my life has been my faith. When I read my bible I do not use it to condemn others, I use it to help change me. Through the years the scriptures have challenged me in ways that has helped me be a much better journalist.
23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
When telling the story of Jesus the Bible talks about the birth of Christ and him being called Immanuel. In most of the Bibles I have they have in parenthesis what Immanuel means. “God with us.”
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
The scripture points out that we are to be like Christ to others. We are to “be” with others.
As journalists we too need to learn to just “be” with others. This is where you are there to listen. You ask them questions to understand them. You ask for their stories.
I don’t want to hear, “If Truth be told.” This means they feel somewhat uncomfortable.
I mention that because many people feel they must be guarded. They don’t believe people will believe them and use their words against them.
My mentor Howard Chapnick wrote a book that the title alone says what the power of photojournalism is all about–Truth Needs No Ally.
TRUTH is the rock foundation of every great character. It is loyalty to the right as we see it; it is courageous living of our lives in harmony with our ideals; it is always—power.
I challenge you to learn to just “be” with others today. Learn to listen. One of the hardest parts of doing this correctly is not letting someone’s comment have you thinking about a reply. Truth comes when we really listen with the intent to understand.