Category Archives: Christian photography

The importance of story

I am currently working on a project to provide photographs for a website redesign. One of the challenges is that I can’t identify people within the photographs unless I have their written permission. Normally that’s fine and permissions can be obtained. But one aspect of what I needed to shoot required absolute confidentiality, for good reason.

One of the areas I needed to cover is a Foodbank. For many people the Foodbank is a genuine life saver  but it’s something no-one really wants to have to rely on and there’s a potential embarrassment in being known to use a Foodbank. When I turned up I was given a tour and explanation of what happens when people come in need of the help that’s available. They are generally referred and will have a voucher to use the Foodbank. They are met and gently welcomed by volunteers who appreciate how difficult this might be for the beneficiary. First off, they have a chat with a volunteer over a coffee and usually some biscuits. Here the Foodbank volunteer tries to create a friendly and compassionate conversation which allows them to do some of the necessary things such as checking for food allergies and dietary intolerances etc. Generally though, the beneficiaries just need to talk with someone friendly, have their story heard and be taken seriously.

This was what I felt I needed to capture in a photo and, especially when you can’t show faces, story becomes really important. So, while this shot was carefully set up, I think it manages to tell the story – of course, the context in which it finally sits will help and hopefully will inform the photo as much as the photo informs the context.

a confidential meeting over a coffee and biscuits

meeting in confidence

I entitled this photo “meeting in confidence” as the meeting is both confidential and one of it’s aims is to give the beneficiary confidence.

Foodbanks are run by The Trussell Trust and do a brilliant job. The project I am working on is not for The Trussell Trust but the Foodbank in question is directly related to it.

 

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Michaelmas

Which came first – the daisy or the festival? One has almost certainly given its name to the other but whichever way it is this is a sure sign of autumn; the appearance of the Michaelmas daisy blooming here beside some autumnal berries. As the new literature Laureate said, “The times, they are a’changing”.

With a new season, I am going to try to post a focal point much more regularly. Now that I have the WordPress app I can take and upload photos using my phone. This image is the first I’ve posted having taken it on my phone with minimal in-phone editing for highlights and contrast.  It’s fine but I still prefer using my DSLR but let’s see what’s possible with a phone camera too.

Light and time

colour on stone

cast colours

What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time.  John Berger

 

Light and time are ever present, yet also fleeting, passing and constantly changing. As John Berger says, they are the essential raw materials of photography. As the shutter opens and closes the light present at that moment in time is captured and recorded.

Both concepts of light and time speak to me in this photograph taken in Gloucester Cathedral. The direct light of a low February sun was shining through the stained glass windows casting this collage of colour onto the stone pillars of the Cathedral. I was drawn much more to this casting of light than I was to the window itself. The pillars provide a sense of permanence, stability and strength, almost challenging time itself. In contrast, the cast of colours suggest the fleeting nature of light washing lightly and gently over the hardness of stone. Those particular patterns might never appear again in exactly the same way and the magic of photography lies in capturing this moment of interaction between light and time.

I’ll probably keep coming back to this image as it’s just one of those that I can look at time after time and be inspired to different thoughts and emotions.

The photo was shot on a Canon EOS 70D at 1/40 sec with an aperture of f8 at ISO 800. The focal length was 29mm. It was shot in portrait format and I made slight adjustments to tone and colour in Lightroom as well as cropping for composition.

Travel retrospective 9 – health confidential

Submitting a prescription

Pharmacy

This is how prescriptions are submitted and dispensed at a clinic in Kinshasa, D R Congo. The patient leaves the clinic with a prescription and then goes round the corner into a secluded street where it’s passed through a window to the pharmacist. Once made up the medication is passed out in the same way.

Why should something as simple as this appear so clandestine? Perhaps it’s a security issue, or maybe it’s more to do with the fact that this clinic deals mostly with patients who are HIV positive or have AIDS and perhaps there is a social stigma still associated with that. In truth, I don’t know the answer but it makes me wonder what we do to the dignity and self-respect of people when we end up stigmatising them as a result of a medical condition. It seems, perhaps, that some conditions carry with them a moral judgement making them more serious than others. That hardly seems right.

For this photograph I deliberately chose to shoot the transaction from inside the pharmacy to emphasise the anonymity of the patient.

Travel retrospective 8 – curiosity

An old woman shows interest

Curiosity

It’s curious, sometimes the unexpected just appears before you and proves to be really captivating. I was on my first filming trip with BMS World Mission covering a number of projects in and around Kathmandu, Nepal. On this occasion, we were filming a public health initiative which was focusing on maternal health. Upstairs in a small brick building, babies were being weighed and checked after which there was to be a nutritional cooking demonstration in the yard at the back. I was making my way up the stairs to get some photographs of the baby clinic when I happened to look down into the adjacent property where this elderly woman had appeared and was looking up at the noise coming from the clinic, as babies cried and mothers sang.

I have often wondered what she was thinking, but she has a look of curiosity on her face, Was she struggling with her eyesight and unable to see what she was hearing? Was she fondly remembering being a young mother herself? Was she concerned about something? There’s no way of knowing, but I was immediately struck by her appearance and expression, behind which lies her own personal story. A story we can only guess at but which is real, was lived and experienced.

This photograph was originally shot on Fuji Pro 800 colour film, transferred to digital jpeg format and processed to monochrome in Adobe Lightroom. The conversion to monochrome is a stylistic reference to this being a retrospective view.

Travel retrospective 7 – super flour

Making super flour in Afghanistan

Making flour

On a visit to Afghanistan in 2003 I visited a development project in Kabul making a vitamin enriched super flour which was then used to make various food products. The aim was to counteract malnourishment in children caused by poverty and lack of access to an even basically nutritious diet.

The project covered the whole process of flour production and in this photo we see two women working in the final stage of mixing the different flours which can be seen in the layers of the large batch of flour. They would scoop up across the layers, then sift the flour through the sieves for bagging. They are wearing masks to prevent inhaling the fine powder created in the process.

It was a simple but highly effective project. One woman volunteered to work there after her child’s health improved through eating bread made from this super flour.

This photograph was originally shot on Fuji Pro 800 colour film, transferred to digital jpeg format and processed to monochrome in Adobe Lightroom. The conversion to monochrome is a stylistic reference to this being a retrospective view.

Travel retrospective 6 – Thailand

Two curious little Karen girls

Curiosity

This photo speaks to me of the beauty of childhood curiosity and innocence. What makes it all the more powerful is the context, which is simply not obvious in the photograph. It was taken inside a refugee camp in Thailand on the border with Burma (Myanmar).

There are many such camps providing a safe refuge for the Karen people whose traditional lands bridge the present countries of Burma and Thailand who have been driven from their villages in Burma. The camps are host to simply thousands of these peaceful and dignified Karen people. On a visit to one camp I spotted these two little girls completely engrossed in looking into this water tank. I was struck by the innocence and sheer humanity of the scene. In the midst of a persecution these little girls simply could not understand, they were behaving just like children of their age anywhere. There is hope expressed here, that innocence and purity can exist within turmoil and pain.

As I reflect on this image and my time visiting the camps in Thailand I think of the thousands of refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean in recent times and how sad it is that they have become pawns in a political game of “not my problem” among the countries of Western Europe. In the midst of turmoil and pain, innocence and purity can flourish, but we in the West seem to be doing our best to stifle it – however unwittingly.

  • Camera, Nikon D70S
  • ISO-1600
  • Aperture, f5.6
  • Shutter, 1/800 sec
  • Focal length, 300mm

Originally shot in colour the photo was processed to Monochrome in Adobe Lightroom with slight adjustments to tone, sharpness and grain reduction.