Conference teaches photojournalists to honor God through storytelling

Conference teaches photojournalists to honor God through storytelling

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – An average of 55 million photographs are updated to Instagram every day. That’s 38,000 photographs every minute and 633 every second.

“This is the heyday of photography,” said photographer Larry McCormack. “Collectively, we will take more photographs in six to nine months of 2014 than have ever been shot in the history of photography.”

This prominence of photography was foundational to the 21st annual Southwestern Photojournalism Conference, Feb. 28-March 2, a gathering of visual communicators who believe that God has called them to tell stories, the greatest of which is the Gospel.

Conference speakers included, among others, McCormack, a photographer for The Tennessean newspaper in Nashville, Tenn.; Ron Londen, chief creative strategist for Journey Group, Inc.; and Greg Thompson, senior director and vice-president for communications at Chick-fil-a, as well as a tentmaker missionary.

Speakers shared personal experiences, gave advice to young photographers, and stressed the importance of using photography to honor God.

“As a Christian, I want you to be very careful not to confuse your job with your calling,” McCormack said. “Your job is something you do; your calling is who you are. Your primary calling is to magnify God's glory everywhere, at all times, with everyone. God has strategically placed you where you are to be salt and light. God has a mission for you right where you are.”

Speaking about workplace ministry, Greg Thompson said that “ministry is not necessarily doing something different; it's doing what you're doing differently. Sometimes you’re called to be a full-time supported missionary, but sometimes you're not.”

Thompson concluded that wherever Christians are, be it in a newsroom or on the mission field, that is their place of ministry.

In a similar vein, Ron Londen, in his presentation, stressed the importance of trusting God to provide the next steps in one’s career path, whatever they may be.

“We don't have to be as concerned as we think sometimes about our profession,” Londen said. “Because when you're following Jesus, you're not blazing the trail. You don't need the map, because you're following. And all we need to do is follow him. It's not easy, but it is simple.”

In addition to the speakers’ presentations, the conference also included a student workshop, a hands-on immersive experience for 30 college students. This opportunity allowed students to go out in groups and shoot an assignment with a professional photographer (such as one of the speakers or a Southwestern staff member). Assignments included the Fort Worth Stockyards, Fossil Rim, and NYTEX Sports Center. These assignments were then critiqued, with coaches offering suggestions for improvement.

“This was the best year for our student conference we've ever had,” said Matt Miller, director of photography at Southwestern and one of the conference’s coordinators. “We had to close registration much earlier than we thought because we had reached our target number rather quickly.”

Miller says, however, that the conference was not just about learning how to take good pictures.

“Folks aren't just here to learn about lighting or shutter speeds or f-stops,” Miller says. “They’re here to learn how to tell better stories. They feel called into photojournalism [in order to] tell the greatest story, and that's the Gospel. ”

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