Last week, I was part of the STORY conference in Chicago, IL, and it was amazing. The thoughts and energy are still whirring around between my ears, as I attempt to process what was, for me, a pivotal two days. I plan to share some of my learning and the things that inspired me most over the next several posts.
Esther Havens is where I’d like to start, partly because I have told several people that for me, the conference was an “Esther Havens moment.” Esther is a gifted photographer who, by her own admission, set out to take the pictures we all see in National Geographic: the poor, sad child in Africa who is starving and hopeless.
She got the shots. But even though she flawlessly took the pictures she’d planned, she felt empty inside. When Esther came home from photographing the sad faces of poverty, she felt challenged to tell the story differently.
Esther knew that the problem did not lie with those she photographed. Rather, she asked God to “change the photographer.” She shared this story with such vulnerability, I felt her words in my own soul. Fitting, as she would later say, “Connection requires vulnerability.”
As Esther worked behind the lens, she began to hear the phrase, “Who we are is not our circumstance.” So, Esther did things differently. Very, very differently.
She took a light into the field and began asking people to look into the light as she took their photographs. The result is an unmistakable glow. Rather than looking down on people, Esther took a knee and looked up to them. She asked questions to find out what sort of images the individual she was photographing might like to show the world. The outcome of this brand of photography will take your breath away.
Esther talked about how she began to see beauty in the midst of poverty. As she spoke, I felt God stirring something in my own soul. I felt a need to be changed; a desire to tell the story differently.
This, my friends, is just the beginning. “We have this moment,” Esther said. The question is, how are you telling the story in your own life?