The Power of Authenticity

Worship in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 8000, ƒ/4, 1/100]
Have you ever heard someone say, “Let’s get real here.”?

Often in meetings and going about life we are performing for others. What I mean is we read the room and situation and plan how we will act. The thing is that organizations often take on this personality as well.

Two little boys I met in a village in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 35mm ƒ/1.4, ISO 100, ƒ/1.4, 1/800]
Organizations and people look to the audience they are playing for and try and figure out what they want to hear in order for they to get what they want, which is often a living.

Everyone longs for love, acceptance and connection. We often do not know how to make it happen. We learn over time that we cannot manipulate people and trying to pull people closer to us, because that does just the opposite and pushes them away.

Jacob Tarnagda is a leader in the church and is 40 years old. His wife’s name is Clenence. His home is in Soumagou. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 100, ƒ/7.1, 1/250]
When we interact with authentic people, we feel we’re interacting with a “real” ones, people free from pretension and without false fronts. For a group of people to experience authenticity requires leadership to foster a place where sharing of their true selves will be welcomed.

A few years ago when teaching at the end of the week I shared a little about myself. When talking to the person who invited me later to review what I could have done better, he made a profound comment that changed my life. You know if you had let people know what you shared at the end of the week earlier on then I think people would have connected with you more than they did.

YWAM SOP Class that I taught in Kona, Hawaii. My daughter had Skyped with the group and told them about my Monkey face. Here the class is doing the monkey face with me.

The following year I started my week of teaching by being much more vulnerable. I told the class my life story and growing up with autism.

This little boy shepherd is part of the Fulani tribe which is known for being herdsmen and is working in the village of Soubakamedougou, Burkina Faso on October 15, 2005. The Marlboro company gives hats to the young boy cowboys to promote their product in Burkina Faso. [Nikon D2X, 24-120mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, ISO 100, ƒ/5.6, 1/90]
Organizations can do the same thing in their communications by choosing to be authentic with their audience. One of the best approaches to achieving authenticity is photojournalism.

Still photograph stops time. It gives the viewer a moment to think, to react, to feel. When the camera captures a “real” moment in time rather than one that is “setup” then the power of that moment gives validity to the storyline.

Surgeon Danny Crawley is in theatre doing a hernia operation and Comfort Bawa, theatre assistant helps him at the Baptist Medical Centre in Nalerigu, Ghana. [Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/250]
The viewer often cannot know if a situation is real or not, so it is up to the photographer to be sure that they have a moral compass that guides them to remain truthful. All it takes is for a photographer to manipulate one image and then all their work is called to question.

Many nonprofits and businesses use stock photography for their communications. It is often more about convenience than any other reason that they choose to use a photo that isn’t about their organization to communicate some of what they do.

There have been numerous times where the same stock photo is used by competing organizations. The same photo of a person carrying a laptop was used by competing computer companies. The same photo was used by different insurance groups. Just google “same stock photo used in two ads” and look at all the examples.

My friend Gary S. Chapman encourages those organizations he works with to hire him to create real moments. He also encourages them to use his byline. “Photo by contributing photographer Gary S. Chapman” gives authenticity to the photo and helps people know it isn’t a stock photo.

I suggest finding stories that reflect what you do for people. Once you find that story is when I would then assign a journalist team to cover the story. The team can be a photojournalist who writes and shoots or it can be a team that consists of the writer and photographer. You may even choose to use video as well.

David Cifuentes and family sharing with the delegation from Frontera de Cristo how since the forming of the coffee cooperative all his family is finally together. Here he is introducing his children and grandchildren. His son went to Atlanta, GA to work on golf courses to feed his family back in Salvador Urbina, Chiapas, Mexico. [Nikon D4, 14-24mm ƒ/2.8, ISO 8000, ƒ/4, 1/100]
You need to give them the time to “peel the onion”, which is getting to the deeper story, so that they can inform your audience how your organization made a difference in their lives.

Personally I would find a few stories and have them cover all of them so you have a series that helps to validate what you are doing in people’s lives.

What I have found is that those organizations who talk about how they have made mistakes early on and are always correcting to do a better job will win over their audience.

I loved how the organization Honduras Outreach or HOI told their own story about a kiln they bought for the people in the Agalta Valley of Honduras.

These girls are able to go to school due to the giving of the HOI community. [Nikon D4, 28-300mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/6.3, 1/250]
The people in Honduras asked what are they do with the kiln. Well you make pottery and sell it to the tourists.

A couple years later HOI noticed that the Hondurans had been making donut bricks that they used to then create chimneys for the stoves in their homes. They then started making tiles for their homes and schools with the kiln.

What I love about the story being told is that HOI admitted that they learned that they were not the ones coming to help out these totally helpless and inferior people. The people of Honduras were very smart and creative. While they couldn’t have make the stuff they did without the kiln they also knew that making pottery for the tourists didn’t make sense at all. There just were no tourists and just the volunteers coming to work in their communities.

This story helped HOI be more authentic with their audience. It helped them to get more people involved.

There are times when you may need to setup a photo. Sometimes for the safety of the people involved you cannot get a photo. You may choose to setup a photo for illustration purposes. This is OK to do, but you do need to tell your audience you did this. Credit the photo as an Illustration and where it is possible explain why you chose to illustrate the photo.

Sometimes in the caption of telling why you had to do a setup photo you help the readers to understand even more of why you need their help.

Today’s young people are looking for authenticity.  They want to work with organizations whose words match up with their actions. The strongest way to communicate authentically is to use photojournalism.

Is your communications grounded in a moral compass?



SWPJC 25 years

Left to Right: Jim Veneman, Bob Carey, Morris Abernathy, Louis Deluca, Ron London, & [Me] Stanley Leary
I apologize for the rambling below. It is a stream of consciousness of some of what I experienced this past weekend at the conference.

Jim & Carol Veneman are having facetime with their grand children

Twenty five years ago we didn’t have the ability to FaceTime with each other. We also didn’t have the ability back in 1992 to shoot photos and share them instantaneously with each other.

A CBU student with Garrett Hubbard reviewing her environmental portrait.

I want to talk here about my journey through the years. When we started the SWPJC I had not really come to terms with my Autism. When I was in third grade I was tested and fell on the spectrum, but back then they didn’t give me the label.

I would slowly understand through many different events that I fit the Aspergers Syndrome perspective on the Autism Spectrum. Through the years I have been taking steps like speech therapy and studying social work which all helped me greatly improve in my deficiencies.

This past weekend when I was teaching I was reminded of my Autism.

I asked everyone in the class I was leading to take a picture. When asked what they took a picture of I had people talk about taking a picture of me with a scowl on my face. Then a couple minutes later someone talked again about my body language as being negative.

This is me with my dad and sister.

I could have just crawled up into a ball and just cried. I realized that while I had done a great deal through the years to pay attention to others I had not done much to work on my face expressions.

Autism is a developmental disorder involving qualitative impairments in social interaction. One source of those impairments are difficulties creating facial expressions of emotion. Difficulties with facial expressions may arise from deficits in a motivation to express positive emotions with others. The difficulties may also stem from physiological problems in physically creating expressions that are due to damage to areas of the brain that control the facial nerve (which produces those expressions).

I know my family has really given me a hard time through the years when they take photos of me. I just don’t look happy. I guess there are moments when a glimpse of my enthusiasm does come through, but I cannot consciously bring the emotions I feel to my face.

I can tell you that I am always thinking and observing others. I do not take lightly those around me. I am always trying to figure out how to be of service. Can I help them or what is their problem they might need help with. I am often trying to connect people with a need with a person I know that could be the solution. So my face expressions are I guess some what accurate. I am thinking which can produce a scowl or tense brow.

I want to be Helpful and Not Hurtful …

So that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. – Hebrews 6:12

I can tell you that God isn’t finished with me yet. I have a lot of work to do with my face expressions. The good news is I kind of know what I need to work on going forward.

… LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. – Psalm 4:6

Morris Abernathy my good friend for more than 30 years

The Southwestern Photojournalism Conference all started because Morris Abernathy called Jim Veneman and mentioned we had an opportunity to take over a photo workshop that Don Rutledge had held at the Seminary for years.

Morris’ vision was to expand the conference and make it an event that more people would feel welcomed. Morris has one of the biggest hearts for people that I know. He is also the one person who has had me doubled over in laughter where tears are flowing so many times. My wife and I think of the times we both have enjoyed his humor.

What a joy Morris has been not just to me, but to all who come into contact with him. We were blessed that he invested so much of his life into the conference.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. – Proverbs 27:17

Akili Ramsess with Jim Veneman

Morris is the person who was leading all the rest of us to include everyone. This photo of Jim Veneman putting his arm around Akili Ramsess just after he met her is indicative of the purpose of the conference. We were about welcoming everyone to the table.

While this was the purpose of the original group I can tell you that through the years it hasn’t gone well every time. You see I know from personal experience that there are many other people out their like me. Their face expressions and body language doesn’t always match their hearts.

I believe those who started the conference want to return to our core values and put into place some changes that will make this conference more like Morris Abernathy had envisioned.

Brad Smith having a great time with Brien Aho during the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference
Twenty five years ago Ron London was the first speaker. He was our last speaker on Sunday and revisited his talking points from 1992.

An amateur (French amateur “lover of”, from Old French and ultimately from Latin amatorem nom. amator, “lover”) is generally considered a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science in a non-professional or unpaid manner. Amateurs often have little or no formal training in their pursuits, and many are autodidacts (self-taught).

Garrett Hubbard started the conference with asking us to examine our identity

“The most powerful words ever said to you are your own,” said Garrett Hubbard. The self talk we do can be the most damaging or up lifting. We are in charge of which that will be.

Garrett also talked about how we often limit our identity to what our job title is and encouraged us to see our whole selves.

Akili Ramsess reviews a students photos

Patrick Murphy-Racey was wanting to help equip photographers with the gear they need to help their work to connect more effectively with audiences. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm ƒ/4, ISO 100, ƒ/4, 1/160]
While I am thinking and really looking for ways to serve even more than I do now, Pat is buzzing by me like a Energizer Bunny in the commercial. He is beating his drum and pulling as many as he can behind him in his parade. Pat is the pied piper of photojournalism.

Before you know it Pat has a group of students and teaching them all about lighting.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35 

The cornerstone of the conference is Jesus Christ. The thing that we try to do each year is very similar to what a mason call the “Holding Bond” – maintaining a plumb-aligned bond or brick pattern. To do this a mason creates the “Hanging the line” – attaching a mason’s line to the leads at opposite ends of a wall.

The committee that produces the conference each year is taking the time to meet soon to retool the conference. We will be “Hanging the Line” so that we can be “Holding Bond” so that when people look at our conference they will see the love we have for one another.

Stay tuned through our website

Brad Smith and Brien Aho with the Chick-fil-A Cow.
Brad Smith shared his tips on how to make connections and showing your portfolio. Besides having strong and unique images Brad pointed out how important it is to be a likable person.
Nikon, Canon and Sony were at the conference showing off their gear, but also let students borrow cameras and lenses for the Student Workshop. This is Brien Aho, the Nikon representative working with student on borrowing a camera. I consider Brien more than a camera rep. He is a friend and someone we all enjoying hanging around.

Brien Aho is helping one of the students with his Nikon 5300. The student was asking me, but I knew Brien was more familiar with the camera as a Nikon representative. Every time I turned around I saw Brien helping people with their cameras.
Brien was a Navy combat photographer, which you wouldn’t know right away in his role as a Nikon representative. Once everyone realized his background he quickly had people lining up to show him their portfolio and ask for his critique.
Thought I would end this on a sunrise photo of student taking a photo at the Fort Worth Mounted Police horse stables.

We are planning on getting our committee together to do a planning retreat for the conference. We have not done this before and believe this is what is needed to go forward for the conference to be successful.Ron London reminded us at the conference to never stop being an amateur photographer. He went on to explain what the word amateur came from and means.Akili Ramsess, NPPA executive director, spent her presentation and every other opportunity to talk about our success is all about relationships. She also helped us to see that is what NPPA is trying to do for photographers is help them have relationships throughout the industry.Patrick Murphy-Racey thinks more like me than most any of my other friends when it comes to photography. The biggest difference between us is Pat’s enthusiasm and excitement is written all over his face.

If there is one photographer I am extremely jealous of it would be Pat. I am jealous of how he exudes excitement to others.

We just wrapped up our 25th Anniversary for the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference and this is the original crew. When we started I am not sure how long we thought this would go on, but all of us feel like it was just yesterday when we started this adventure.The student workshop that we added many years ago has turned into a huge success. One of the main reasons is the ability of the students to shoot and show the instructors their work immediately for some feedback and the ability to go and reshoot if necessary.

Covering a candidates for City Council meeting

L/R Marie Willsey, Lori Henry and Shelley Sears are all running for open spot on the city Council, speaks at Roswell City Council Candidate forum held at the Roswell Community Masjid. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 2500, ƒ/4, 1/100]

I went to the local Masjid in Roswell to cover three of the candidates running for City Council office.


I wanted to show that this was pretty historic to show the Masjid hosting the meeting and as well to capture the personalities of those running for office, so that the audience would know about the candidates a little more than before the event. The tiles had Arabic language on them and I included them to show the location of the meeting.

I watched and listened. Each of the candidates running for office was very different from the others.

Shelley Sears was running on her success as a business woman in Real Estate. [Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4.8, 1/100]

Shelly Sears was no nonsense business personality. She had a very similar approach of Trump. She wanted everyone to no she was not a politician, but a successful business person. She was running on the platform of we need business people running the city and not politicians.

I noticed she leaned forward more than the other candidates and intentionally chose not to use a microphone. This to me was her visually saying she needs no help at all and can handle it herself. I waited for the moment I thought that show her take control lean forward and tell you how she is going to take control was the best way to capture her.

Marie Willsey has been serving on her homeowners association board. She was seeing this as an opportunity to serve just like she has done for homeowners board, but a bigger stage of the community. She just likes serving. [Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4.8, 1/100]

Now Marie Willsey reminded me of the stay at home mom who is involved in community service projects. She was serving on her homeowners board and loved doing this. She saw many of the same things facing the homeowners as those concerns for the larger community.

All the time when she was talking she was smiling. It was important that she came across as friendly and wanting to be seen as someone there to help you. So, I was sure to capture the smile and the warmth she was conveying to the audience.

Lori Henry had served in the past on the City Council. She wanted people to know she understood the issues that are the hotting topics to the community. She wanted to portray herself as scholared candidate on the cities issues. [Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/4.8, 1/100]

Now the third candidate had been here before. Lori Henry was running at the well educated on the issues candidate. She took issues and explained what needs to change to make a difference.

To capture this I had to look for that expression that showed a lot of thought going into her comments. So I looked for that furrowed brow and intense gaze.

Thought before I shot

As you can see I thought about each person. I felt their presence and looked for ways to capture those things into a visual moment that communicated some of this to the audience through the lens of the camera.

[Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art, ISO 2800, ƒ/4, 1/100]

However First I …

The very first thing I did was to walk into the room and asses the room technically.

The room had fluorescent as well as tungsten lights. I wrote an earlier blog talking about this here and how to get good white balance.

I basically did a custom white balance using the ExpoDisc and was sure that the shutter speed was no faster than 1/100.

Next I sat on the front row center so I could get a clear shot of the speakers without any distractions. Also I knew I could stand up for a moment and move to the side and get an overall shot at some moment.

I also brought two cameras. The Nikon D5 had a 24-105mm which helped for the over all shot and the three speaking, but then I brought my Fuji X-E2 with the 55-200mm which let me get tight shots of them individually speaking without me leaving my chair.

Once I had all the technical stuff taken care of I then switched my mind over to listening and finding those moments to tell the story.


I call all this my shooting workflow. You need to always get the best technical shot as well as getting the moments to tell the story. There is a process that takes place every single time.

Do you have a process? Do you know why you are taking a photo? Do you know who your audience is for your photos? If you don’t know these answers then you will not be able to communicate much through your photos.

Mr. Robot conjures the photo style of photojournalist Don Rutledge

Portia Doubleday and Rami Malek in the pilot episode of “Mr. Robot”

I love the depth in the imagery in the cinema-photography.


by Don Rutledge

I was talking to my long time friend Ken Touchton on the phone. We had both talked about the TV show Mr. Robot.

Watch On-Line Now Here

We were talking about the photography style of the show and quite frankly it is unique. We were thinking that with today’s large screen TVs of LCD Sizes 32, 40, 42, 46, 52, 55, 70, 82 it was now bringing the cinema into our homes. The BIG SCREEN has finally arrived so that the director of photography for TV shows is no longer limited.

John Howard Griffin the author of Black Like Me walking down street in New Orleans. photo by Don Rutledge.

The last show that Ken Touchton watched he actually turned the sound down and just watched and studied and this was when he realized it was like watching Don Rutledge’s photography once again. You can see in this 1956 photo of John Howard Griffin walking down the street the similarity of using the negative space.

by Don Rutledge

Now to run Don’s work in a newspaper was more difficult than in a magazine. In a magazine the designer would take a photo like this one above and run it across two pages. Sitting in your lap it has the same affect as a 55″ TV screen would have across the room–Cinematic as we might call it today.

Using negative space like this helped Don to create mood both positive and negative to help tell a story.

by Don Rutledge

Don had a way of finding a wonderful scene and then letting the scene unfold with the people moving in and out of the frame. You will see this over and over in Mr. Robot.

by Don Rutledge

This photo of a Russian pastor is a great example of one of the compositions used over and over in the TV Show.

by Don Rutledge

When two people are in the photos in Mr. Robot you see this quite often.

Here is how Don Rutledge has shot some street scenes in the past.

by Don Rutledge

Don created tension by playing things off of each other in his compositions.

While the director of photography for Mr. Robot is doing what they think is unique it has been around a long time, just harder to see in the media when it started in magazines like LIFE magazine back in the 1950’s.

While most of today’s video is 50% the closeup Mr. Robot is pulling upon a style of the great photojournalists like Don Rutledge.

My calling to be a photojournalist

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 800, ƒ/2.8, 1/20

Back in high school I felt a call to be a preacher. For those not familiar with this kind of language I will try to explain this a little more for you.

A vocation (from Latin vocātiō, meaning “a call, summons”) is an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which she/he is suited, trained, or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in Christianity.

In my Christian tradition we believe that one is responding to God.

After this, I heard the Lord ask, “Is there anyone I can send? Will someone go for us?”

“I’ll go,” I answered. “Send me!” – Isaiah 6:8

While early in my career I would say that when I decided to not to go to seminary after getting my Social Work undergraduate degree that I took a detour, now I would say I was learning how to tell stories.

While working on my master’s thesis on Don Rutledge I started to realize I was a preacher. Here is what I wrote in my thesis:

After talking with Don, this writer felt redirected in his call to be a minister who used the camera as a central part of his ministry.  Many who are Christian photojournalists have struggled with the call.  In many ways, the Christian photojournalist is a preacher.  The photojournalist’s illustrations are not done with words in the pulpit but with photographs on the printed page.

Today I would change that last line to say with still/motion images used in many mediums to tell the story.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 800, ƒ/2.8, 1/30

The men in these photos are pastors in Burkina Faso learning how to be effective preachers to lead their congregations.

In 1992 a few of my friends started the Southwestern Photojournalism Seminar in Fort Worth, Texas. To help identify who we were we came up with this sentence:

The Southwestern Photojournalism Conference is the conference for those who believe photojournalism to be a calling and the act of bearing witness to be important.

I believe all photojournalists are responding to a call. Those who agree to the code of ethics of the profession that you can find here are seeking truth and communicating that to their audience.

The hardest part of the code of ethics to me is trying to be sure you are being truthful. This means you must really spend time getting to know the story. You must dig to be sure you are representing the subject accurately and that after seeing your story will feel that you accurately represented them.

While in seminary I was taught how to do an exegesis.

Exegesis includes a wide range of critical disciplines: textual criticism is the investigation into the history and origins of the text, but exegesis may include the study of the historical and cultural backgrounds for the author, the text, and the original audience. Other analysis includes classification of the type of literary genres present in the text, and an analysis of grammatical and syntactical features in the text itself.

Now I went to seminary after working as a photojournalist for more than six years. What I found was that the skill was pretty similar to what a journalist does to be sure they understand a story.

My call story is unique to me, but has a lot of similarities to some of biblical characters like Jacob, Joseph and even Moses.

It is only when you look back through the lives of these biblical characters that you see how God took each thing that often was a struggle that was to help prepare them for their calling.

Moses complained about his voice to God. I was born with Autism. Both of us complained about our struggle to communicate.

What I can tell you is that the camera brought me a great deal of comfort to help navigate this world. I am so thankful that my father who was a Baptist preacher advising me to major in either Social Work or Business in undergraduate and that I would get all of my biblical studies in seminary.

Majoring in Social Work taught me how to listen with my ears and eyes. I learned how to ask questions to get to the bottom of a problem. I also learned about body language and how to read people. This would later help me tremendously with a camera and recognize why certain photos were better at communicating than others.

While my intention of going to seminary to get my masters in communication to return to the church to do photojournalism, it was the required courses in education and theology that I would truly teach me more skills that I use today.

Nikon D2X, Sigma 18-50mm f/2.8 EX, ISO 800, ƒ/2.8, 1/60

Had I not been willing to take a different direction by becoming a photojournalist I might be a pastor today of a congregation. Each week I would prepare a sermon and speak to my congregation. Pastors equip the saints to do the work of the church.

However because I followed the call to use photojournalism as my pulpit the audiences I have reached through different newspapers, magazines, online media and the list goes on is not a few hundred, but literally I am touching the world with the photos I have been privileged by my subjects with their help to capture so that audiences will understand the world in which they live better than they did before they saw these images.

I believe I am equipping the saints through educating them with photos, text/audio and even cinema that helps to deliver stories to them so that they can take actions to make this world even better because they now know more than they knew before.

My favorite thing to do today is to teach others who feel called into this profession of photojournalism/storyteller and equip them to do even more than I was able to do.

Panel Discussion – FOCUS [Fellowship Of Communicators Uniting Socially]

Yesterday I hosted FOCUS [Fellowship Of Communicators Uniting Socially] meeting in Roswell, Georgia.

We had a panel discussion made up of these industry leaders and you can listen to them in the video above. They are discussing the state of the industry and tips they recommend for today’s professional communicator.

Dr. Houston Davis serves as the Executive Vice Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer of the University System of Georgia. USG is comprised of Georgia’s 30 public universities and colleges including four research universities, the Institute of Oceanography, State Archives, the Public Library System, and statewide Information Technology Services. USG enrolls approximately 314,000 students and employs approximately 41,000 faculty and staff.

Prior to May 2012, Davis served as the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education and served as the state’s liaison on the national Complete College America initiative. Prior to 2007, he served as Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the Tennessee Board of Regents, on faculty and in academic leadership for Austin Peay State University, in fiscal and academic affairs for the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and as a regional counselor for the University of Memphis. In addition to his past professional duties, he served in the role of Director for the National Educational Needs Index project, a Lumina funded initiative measuring educational, economic, and population pressures in the 50 states that influence policy and planning at local, regional, and national levels.

He is involved in research projects and writing in higher education governance, economic development, and accountability issues and serves on several national advisory groups on higher education policy, degree completion, academic preparation, and accountability. He received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University with other degrees from the University of Memphis and Tennessee State University.

In addition to his professional duties, Houston Davis has served as director for the National Educational Needs Index project from 2004-2011, an initiative measuring educational, economic, and population pressures in the 50 states that influence policy and planning at local, regional, and national levels.

Dr. Davis is involved in research projects and writing in the areas of higher education access, governance, economic development, and accountability issues in higher education and serves on several national advisory groups on higher education policy, degree completion, academic preparation, and accountability.

A native of Clarksville, Tennessee, Davis received his Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University, Nashville.

Faith Peppers is the director of public affairs and chief communications officer for the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. She is known across North America for work in agricultural issues management and crisis communication. She manages strategic communications, issues management, brand and executive reputation management, crisis communication and legislative relations for the college, agricultural experiment stations and Cooperative Extension.

She holds an associates degree in journalism from Middle Georgia College and bachelor and master degrees in journalism and communication from Georgia State University. Before joining the University of Georgia in 1993, she spent more than 10 years as an Atlanta newspaper reporter, public information officer and marketing specialist. She has won numerous regional, national and international awards for writing, editing, media relations, marketing and communication training, and is an often-requested speaker on media relations, crisis communication and other public affairs topics across North America.

She has published research and professional development papers on defining agriculture to urban audiences, effective media relations in urban markets, strategic issues management and working and managing in a telecommuter workplace.

Her current work focuses on what promises to be the greatest social justice issue of the next decade – food security around the world.

Michael A. Schwarz is an independent editorial and corporate photographer/videographer based in Atlanta, Georgia. Over a 30-year career Michael has completed more than 6,000 assignments for publications and corporations around the globe. His editorial client list has included USA Today, Fortune, Forbes, Business Week, The New York Times, Newsweek, Time, National Geographic Traveler, The Chronicle of Higher Education and Sports Illustrated. His corporate client list has included The Home Depot, UPS, The Coca-Cola Company, Harvard University, Brown University, GE, Synchrony Financial and Porsche.

Michael has a background as a photojournalist and is a 3-time Pulitzer Prize nominee. He has received numerous awards from the Pictures of the Year competition and was a winner of the Dag Hammarskjold Award for Human Rights Advocacy Journalism. Many, many years ago LIFE Magazine featured Michael as one of the best young photographers in America in a special issue of their magazine. In 1998, Michael collaborated with author Ellen Spears on the book “The Newtown Story: One Community’s Fight for Environmental Justice.” Michael is a native of Baltimore and a graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Michael has served on the Board of Directors of the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar and the Atlanta Chapter of ASMP. He maintains membership in the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP),and the Atlanta Press Club. In a recent reader’s poll sponsored by the Atlanta Press Club, Michael’s collaboration with writer Steve Sternberg, “When AIDS Comes Home,” was voted the favorite Atlanta story of the last 50 years.

In addition to his photographic work, Michael does digital photography consulting and training. His corporate clients have included: Nikon, and Best Buy. He is a featured trainer with Blue Pixel Inc. and has been a lead instructor of Nikon School since 2001 a workshop leader for the Mentor Series.

Greg Thompson is senior director of corporate communications for Chick-fil-A, Inc., one of America’s largest privately held restaurant chains with 2,000 restaurants and annual sales of almost $7 billion.

Prior to joining Chick-fil-A, Greg spent 25 years in worldwide management and executive positions with IBM in Atlanta, Tucson and Tokyo. In his career at IBM and Chick-fil-A, Greg has edited several magazines and web sites, produced numerous events, product rollouts, videos and multi-media packages and has hired countless photographers, videographers, writers and producers – including a number of Pulitzer Prize winners. He also has worked during that time as a writer, producer, photographer and consultant for a number of well-known organizations.

Greg joined IBM after a career as a photographer and journalist for three newspapers and The Associated Press.

He is a graduate of Vanderbilt University, where he studied history, political science and sociology while also working as a reporter and photographer for the then Gannett-owned Nashville Banner.

Greg also is involved as a volunteer and consultant with several faith-based NGOs around the world. He serves on the boards of HOI, which focuses on Honduras and Nicaragua, and SCORE International, which focuses on the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Panama and Cuba. Greg accompanied a SCORE medical relief team into Haiti shortly after the 2010 earthquake and worked with CRASH Japan and Samaritan’s Purse in Tohoku, Japan after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. He has also done volunteer work in Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba, Jamaica and Cambodia.

Greg and his wife, Mary Belle, have been married 32 years and live in Marietta, Georgia.

The terrorist attack in Ouagadougou had me remembering my time there
This weekend there was a horrible attack where 32 people lost their lives in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Above is a quick slide show I did back in 2005 of my visit to Burkina Faso & Ghana.

Here some of the news reports:

Story image for burkina faso from Newsweek


Burkina Faso Capital Security Tightens After Jihadi Attack

New York Times3 hours ago
OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso — In the wake of a weekend attack that killed up to 32 people, security was beefed up across Burkina Faso’s …
US condemns attacks in Burkina Faso
OpinionJerusalem Post Israel News22 hours ago

I thought I would take this blog just to give you some of what I learned while in Burkina Faso.

I was there just ten years ago. I don’t think I know any of those killed directly, but I do know many of those I worked with that month in 2005 were most likely affected by this terrorist attack.

One of the oldest Mosques in Burkina Faso which is located in the downtown of Bobo-Dioulasso. Believed to have been built in the early 1880’s. Religions in Burkina Faso are Muslim 61.6%, Catholic 23.2%, traditional/animist 7.3%, Protestant 6.7%, other/no answer 0.2%, none 0.9% (2010 est.)

Coffee is almost exclusively instant coffee (Nescafe is the usual brand). One of the region’s finest institutions (found mainly in French-speaking countries) are the coffee stalls where clients sit on small benches around a table and drink glasses of Nescafe mixed with sweetened condensed milk.

Burkina Faso is a poor, landlocked country that depends on adequate rainfall. About 80% of the population is engaged in subsistence farming and cotton is the main cash crop. The country has few natural resources and a weak industrial base. Cotton and gold are Burkina Faso’s key exports and Burkina Faso’s economic growth and revenue depends on global prices for the two commodities.

In 2014 Burkina Faso was ranked 124th in the world economy, right behind Chad and just above Equatorial Guinea.

Ethnic Groups are Mossi 52.5%, Fulani 8.4%, Gurma 6.8%, Bobo 4.8%, Gurunsi 4.5%, Senufo 4.4%, Bissa 3.9%, Lobi 2.5%, Dagara 2.4%, Tuareg/Bella 1.9%, Dioula 0.8%, unspecified/no answer 0.1%, other 7% (2010 est.)

Most of the shepherds herding cattle are Fulani as this young boy is above.

Here I am about a mile or so from the Ivory Coast border and those swimming here are Senara tribe.

Community Journalism with Fujifilm X-E2

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.6, 1/50

Community Journalism

Last night at my daughter’s high school the county had an informational meeting about the planning for schools in our county. I took my Fuji X-E2 camera with me just in case I wanted to use it.

There were less than ten people in attendance. No real reason to have a meeting you would think, but this is how a lot of meetings happen every day in our communities that have major long term impact on our communities.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/3.2, 1/30

Those who show up and speak up are the ones they hear from and they must assume this is the will of the community because they asked them for their feedback and this is what they get.

Those in attendance at the Fulton County Schools Educational Space Standards Community Meeting were able to hear how the county has hired outside experts in educational space to help the county set those educational standards that then the designers and architects will use to help in implementing changes to improve our schools.

They will now have the WHY part of the process answered if anyone asks why they were making these changes. Also when the changes recommended come up against budget restraints everyone will know what they are falling short of doing.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/18

So imagine you go to one of these meetings in your community. Do you think a photo with some explanation would be a great way to communicate with your friends through social media?

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/18


Next community event you go to be sure and take some good photos and add some text as a caption. This can help us build stronger communities.

President Jimmy Carter and my fellow Photojournalists have something in common

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 7200, ƒ/5.6, 1/500

I was blessed today to see in person former President Jimmy Carter teach Sunday School at his hometown church Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, GA.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/3.5, 1/15

To get this opportunity I realized last week when he announced his diagnosis with cancer that I had put off hearing him teach for too long. I immediately went to the church’s website to see when he was teaching. Here is where you go to see when he is teaching

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/5.6, 1/250

I was there when every network was there covering the lesson. You can here some of the sound bites from today’s lesson here.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 12800, ƒ/8, 1/250

 After the service my wife and I had our photo taken with the Carters.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 10000, ƒ/8, 1/500

The Atlanta Journal & Constitution sent Ben Gray to cover the event. I was enjoying watching my colleagues work while I was just taking it easy being a spectator.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1600, ƒ/8, 1/500

Here is the Associated Press photographer David Goldman acknowledging he is on the other side of the lens for once.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1100, ƒ/8, 1/500

Here Ben Gray is taking a photo of the caption information and being sure it is with the photo for later when he is sending this back to the office for publication. In the background is David Goldman talking to a subject he just finished interviewing.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 200, ƒ/3.5, 1/500

I ran into Ben Gray later downtown where he was filing photos from outside the store while his family is inside shopping. He brought his family to enjoy the historical moment with him.

Nikon D750, AF-S NIKKOR 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, ISO 1600, ƒ/8, 1/500

You could see the media taking places where they could find them. Here another photographer is editing and filing under tree in front of Maranatha Baptist Church.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/160

Just the day before I hosted the Christians in Photojournalism group at my church in Roswell. Here is Patrick Murphy-Racey, a Sony Artisan, giving us the inside scoop on Sony’s latest cameras.

In the past Ben Gray has been the keynote speaker. Other times we have had other journalists speak. It is important for photojournalists to know their colleagues. We try to help each other when and where we can, but we still must also work hard to get the angle others are missing.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/140

Here David Stembridge is sharing some of his work to the group during our 5-minute shows. This is where anyone can show their work to the group in just 5-minutes.

You see photojournalists care deeply. They care for their subjects and they care for the public. We care that we are informed about our fellow man.

Fujifilm X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/4, 1/160

Just like President Jimmy Carter was a statesman he was also a Sunday School Teacher. Today was lesson 698 in Plains, GA. Here is photojournalist Patrick Murphy-Racey who is also a Catholic Deacon blending the technical aspects of photography with his faith.

Patrick said “They say you can never step into the same stream of water, because the water is constantly moving. This is why I must stay abreast of technology, because when I step on the floor each morning from my bed just like the stream I cannot expect it to be the same as yesterday.”

Today President Carter boiled down the responsibilities of the Christian as simply as “loving the Lord your God with all your heart and to also love the person in front of you, not matter friend or enemy.”

He talked today about dealing with conflict. He said “in real estate it is all about location, location, location. In conflict resolution it is all about communication, communication, communication.”

While President Jimmy Carter saw his calling as through public service by holding public office photojournalists see our calling as the role of the communicator. We are helping make our world a better place to live through helping us see our conflicts and helping us see the solutions as well.

President Jimmy Carter and photojournalists believe in serving and the key for our effectiveness is in our ability to communicate.

2015 Staff Photojournalist Job Requirements

Nikon D810, 24-70mm [photo by: Robin Nelson]

For those who want to find a staff job working at Newspaper, Magazine or online outlet the job description is a lot different these days than it was years ago.

Here are a few descriptions I pulled from job postings with the National Press Photographers Association:

  1. Candidates should excel at news, features and sports photography. Our visual journalists also are counted on to produce multimedia presentations and online slide shows. 
  2. The multimedia coordinator is responsible primarily for video production and assists with other multimedia projects, including photo research, livestreaming and interactive content. The multimedia coordinator ensures that video projects produced will meet editorial and branding standards and tell compelling and distinctive stories. 
  3. Candidates should have news, feature, sports and multimedia experience and be prepared to work in a fast-paced, breaking-news environment. 
  4. Looking for an energetic, versatile, creative multimedia/visuals editor who can help us continue to produce great visual content for our readers!

Multimedia is technically anything that involves multiple types of content. The World Press Photo organization split this category into interactive and linear.

Linear productions give the reader guidance. There is only one way to experience the story. With an interactive package the reader is able to decide the direction.

With either one there needs to be visual storytelling in terms of photography and video in each.

Nikon D810, 24-70mm, ISO 3200, ƒ/7.1, 1/60 [photo by: Robin Nelson]

Here is what I am telling students and those wanting to make a career change to storytelling/photojournalism.

I believe that there are three components [skills] needed to hired as a staff multimedia producer.

First you need to be able to write. You need to be able to capture the story in a written form. This is necessary because you need to provide written captions many times and today you may be putting the package together all by yourself.

Second you need to have a good command of photography skills to capture the visual story as stills. You need to master your camera to be able to not just get well exposed images, but use the creative tools of aperture, shutter speed and light to tell a story more effectively. You need to know how to use artificial light and I highly recommend knowing how to use strobes off the camera.

Third you need to master capturing motion and sound. Understanding that in most multimedia linear projects sound will drive the project, so you must know how to capture and use it to help lead the audience through the story. You need to master post production software like Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premier.

Your understanding of what makes a good story and how to find stories will be what is most valued by your employers.

I would suggest taking a journalism writing course as well as photojournalism course before you dive into multimedia post productions skills. This will take more than just taking the classes back to back. You need to produce at the highest level showing you have mastered these skills.

Your portfolio will be more important than your degree. There are many people working in the industry without a college degree and there are many people with degrees not working because of their portfolios.

With portfolio being key, your degree is what can also make you more valuable, especially if your degree is in a subject that helps make you an expert in that subject. For example Sebastião Salgado has a doctorate in economics and Eugene Richards has a degree in social work. Both of these photographers built their professions on their expertise on the subjects they cover.

As you can see this is a lot to master, so don’t quit your day job before you have a portfolio that shows you can tell stories using multimedia.

Transitioning From Photographer to Storyteller

photo courtesy of Knolan Benfield, Jr.

One of my earliest memories with our family is my grandfather, whom I called Daddy “B”, with his slide projector sharing his latest trip with all the family. The photo above is with my Daddy “B”, Nana “B”, my mother, sister and me wearing an indian hat watching a slideshow.

Once I started shooting myself I also got a slide projector and would have similar shows in our home.

In my second job with the International Mission Board I helped missionaries know how to construct a slideshow so that it told a story. I also was producing slideshows to music. This was in the late 1980’s.

Here is one I produced showing Don Rutledge’s coverage of Russia:

I was taught how to shoot “Photo Stories.” Here is what I was taught to capture:

  1. Opener: Sets the scene for the story
  2. Decisive moment: The one moment that can by itself tell the story
  3. Details: Besides being like visual candy to the story, help often with transitions–especially in multimedia packages
  4. Sequences: give a little variety to a situation
  5. High overall shot: Gives a good perspective to how the elements all fit together
  6. Closer: Besides the classic shot of the cowboy riding off into the sunset there are other visual ways to help bring the story to a close
  7. Portraits: These photos are great for introducing the characters of the story

I was always working with a writer who captured the story as text and together our packages were produced in magazines or newspapers.

Looking back I would say I was getting elements of the story and really not responsible for the complete package.

In 2006 I bought a digital audio recorder, which changed my career trajectory. I produced my first package that I was responsible for all the parts to help tell a story. My friend Susan Shaw had started a business combining her art with love of farm animals.

Here is that first effort of mine to capture a story in 2006:

I was learning the craft of the storyline. Up until this point I was focusing on capturing the HOW? and WHAT? of the story and now I am laser focused on the WHY?.

One of my favorite stories where I could see some of the changes taking place was my first coverage of the Daddy Daughter Date Night at Chick-fil-A. Here is this story package I did in 2008:

Today I am producing on somewhat regular basis small two to three minute packages that are small stories.

Here is one of the latest stories I did recently for Honduras Outreach Inc.:

Here is what they have as their mission statement on their website:

HOI is a Christ-centered short-term mission organization working alongside people of developing countries who desire to implement sustainable development partnerships. We organize mission trips to Honduras and Nicaragua.

HOI’s vision is to create life-changing relationships between the people of developing countries and North Americans, while promoting community directed and integrated spiritual, physical, educational and economic development of men, women and children in the developing world through the promotion of dignity, mutual cooperation and self-sufficiency.

My goal with the package was to help communicate the emotions and the heart of HOI.

This process has taken me more than thirty years to learn. Twenty of those years were learning how to produce compelling photo stories and the last ten have been executive producing storytelling packages.

I want to invite you to go with me to Romania to learn how to do this in just two weeks. We still have some slots open. Here is the link to that workshop

If that doesn’t work for your calendar give me a call and let’s plan a personal workshop or group one for you.