Tag Archives: photography

The Responsibility of Model Making

Going into this course I was skeptical of the ability to connect the documentary process and theology. However, the separate discussions of church and how to shoot and cut video have mirrored each other in unexpected ways.

Church is a model. It is a human representation of a mystic religious experience.

This is an interesting parallel to the camera. The camera does not present us with reality. It presents us with a representation of light somehow reflected into an image… I honestly have no idea how this works but I know it is not what happened. Instead, it is a representation of that moment. Each of these models or representations is prone to human error. The camera can lie.

There is an assumption of truth with video. There is a forgetfulness that just like a piece of writing there is an author making conscious decisions about the composition, especially when it has the tagline “documentary”.

A famous photo from Jacob Riis’ How The Other Half Lived

Though we are discussing video in class this also applies to photography. An infamous series of photos, How the Other Half Lives depicts urban slums in 1890s America. When looking at these images it is easy to be preoccupied with the poverty and forget the conscious decisions made when making these photographs. The photographer of How The Other Half Lived was a police officer that purposefully created a photo series to associate fear with adult males in the slums and sorrow with the children. Though this is not unethical it is easy to forget that images are representations that can be molded.

This is similar to models of God and faith. These models are human constructions and in return can be changed and usually are adapted based on human thought, whether this is positive or negative.

Creating documentaries is a responsibility I am continuing to learn about. Whether this is learning how to use truthful trickery, editing diverse shots, or not taking quotes out of context. A large part of this is understanding the negative and positive implications of visual representations. This has been most apparent watching videos in class. It has become more and more clear conscious editing and filming decisions dictate the honesty of our models.

I hope to continue to grow in my ability to acknowledge human adaptations and models so I can better understand the difference between reality and representation in both filming and theology.

I asked for burger… I got an extra cheesecake

In my first blog, I imagined our project as a combo burger. Actually I had a fatty rich one, I learned a lot in photography (Thanks Tim), journalism(Thanks Carol) and theology(Thanks John).  But God is generous and always has surprises for me. He always add an extra addition to my order, this time was an eternal amazing cheesecake that I am enjoying right now. After I finished with my burger, it is time for dessert, the sweetest thing in this magical “restaurant”. Click continue to see the surprise.  Continue reading I asked for burger… I got an extra cheesecake

No more amateur documentaries

The crew in action... my keystone for future projects
The crew in action… My keystone for future projects.

Our documentary wasn’t the first video experience for me… Though, I learnt a lot as technique, heavy practicing will improve your skills whatever level of professionalism you had… But what I discovered more was than I am not a professional yet… documentary is more than camera and photographer… This why I won’t film a documentary the way I used to.  Continue reading No more amateur documentaries

Looking Through the Lens

We had shipped out of Seward on a vessel taking us to observe wildlife in the Kenai Fjords National Park.

Wales emerged for air, porpoises splashed and jumped along our bow, and birds innumerable soared above, all with a dramatic background of glaciers and mountains rising like Colossi out of the Bering Sea.

‘Twas a photographer’s paradise.

For the majority of the trip, as I have mentioned before, I was responsible for getting shots with the Panasonic. This was a phenomenal task, but limiting in some respects, as the Panasonic is valued for its amazing auto-focus and ease of stability. I didn’t get to take full control of the images I was taking. It hadn’t really occurred to me to try.

I noticed that Claire wasn’t using her Canon T5i during the voyage, so I asked if I could tamper with it.

I thank God that she said yes.

It was like playing guitar for the first time (for those of you who know me well, you also know that this is a big deal.

Photography is an art. It’s much more than simply pointing and shooting. Nico posted a video on Facebook a while back that captures the feeling.

I found a whole new form of expression and mode of narration and my disposal, so I experimented and tinkered for the rest of the trip.

Here are some of my favorite shots:

My favorite view.
My favorite view.
John O'Keefe
John O’Keefe


Living Ignatian green … Meet Hannah Mullally.

Intimacy with nature
Intimacy with nature

Hannah broke all the stereotypes of both: living in country, and living as only child. First because she enjoyed the simplicity of her town “Seward, NE”, a town of 6-7 thousands of population. Moreover, she moved out to the country when she was in 1st grade. The second stereotype was living as a single kid, she invited trees, sun, and stars into her life and they became her friends. With her imagination, she was the contemplative person who appreciates everything surrounding her, and the Ignatian person I met. 

I matched a lot of common points between Hannah and St. Ignatius of Loyola. And I want to illustrate them for you in light of the lovely conversation we had in Bethel.  Continue reading Living Ignatian green … Meet Hannah Mullally.

Storey sets her sights on multiple skills

Preparing to go abroad is a long process, but Claire Storey has memorized it. She goes abroad once almost every year.

She’s been to a dozen countries, not to mention various states. Bethel, Alaska is considered a close destination.

Storey sat outside of the Immaculate Conception Church in Bethel on a Thursday afternoon and tried to list all of the countries she’s visited as Scott Prewitt, an adventurer who would love to travel the world, listened.

“I could probably name them all,” she said. “South Africa…”

“I hate you,” Prewitt whispered. South Africa was just the beginning of the long list.

“Wait, I have to think about this in order, if I can,” she replied. “South Africa, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, England, Spain, Ireland, Portugal, Canada, Mexico. Did I already say Germany? Italy.”

She laughed as Prewitt glared at her. She added, “And pretty much everywhere in the Netherlands. I think that’s it.”

Storey has been on many family vacations. Like every tourist, she brought along a digital camera on every trip. Snapping pictures at a very early age and watching her mother take up photography as a hobby, she grew to love photography as much as her mother does.

“There were always interesting things to take pictures of,” Storey said, reflecting on her traveling experiences. “From a fairly young age I had a digital camera that I could take pictures with so I would just take lots of pictures.”

Going on Creighton’s Backpack Journalism trip was vital to Storey’s future.

“My paranoid mind is like, ‘I’m going to go to some employer that went to Creighton and knows all about Creighton and was like ‘Oh, did you go on the Backpack Journalism program?’”

Saying no to that question was a big fear of Storey’s, so she signed up for the program and packed her bags for yet another adventure.

Instead of bringing her digital camera, she brought her professional camera and took her photography skills to the next level during the experience.

She had always naturally adopted the rule of thirds, the theory that the eye will gravitate toward an object of interest that is placed at an intersection point when the image is split into thirds. However, she had struggled with setting the aperture, which controls the brightness of an image, and exposure in the manual mode of the camera.

Storey snapped this picture of Zon, the son of one of the guides on her trip to a nearby village. This is her favorite picture from the trip.
Storey snapped this picture of Zon, the son of one of the guides on her trip to a nearby village. This is her favorite picture from the trip.

“I took the Video and Photojournalism class and then I took the Digital Video class and then I came on this trip,” Storey explained. “I knew the information from the first two classes but it wasn’t really until we were practicing for this trip that I realized that it was really clicking into place and I knew what I was doing.”

Although photography has always been a passion of Storey’s, she’s hoping to one day have a position at a publishing house.

“I’m studying photojournalism and I’m studying news journalism, but really what I have been able to see myself doing for a long time is being in some sort of editing of novels, like young adult novels,” she said.

She explained that a lot of people ask her why she didn’t major in English if she wants to edit novels one day.

Storey knew that if she were to major in English, she’d have to specialize in creative writing in order to edit novels, and at some point or another she’d have to write her own creative story.

“I basically have an inability to come up with a concept in my mind for a creative story idea and develop my own story, but I’m really good at helping other people flush out and develop and edit their stories,” she explains.

So she chose to explore photojournalism and news journalism to keep multiple windows of opportunity open and to develop her enjoyment of both skills.

“Photojournalism is something that I really enjoy so I think it’s a good skill to develop for myself to open up as a possible career,” she explained.

Even if Storey gets her dream job editing young adult novels at a publishing house, photography will always be a passion of hers.

At the rate she travels, she may have photographs from every country on the globe by the time she puts her camera down for good.





Vixia Style…

My vixia waiting the plane in newtok next to Tim's Mark 3. The student and the teacher.
My vixia (on the right) waiting the plane in Newtok next to Tim’s Mark 3. The student and the teacher.

For whom not familiar with photography, Vixia is another video cam we brought during our trip to Alaska… At first glance, Vixia looks like a portable hair dryer, not even a fancy one… Everyone avoided it, and they prefer their DSLR cameras, the ones we used for all interviews, and most fancy B-rolls. Only me, a Bald man, had an intimate relation with his hair dryer for two weeks… Continue reading Vixia Style…

Living with Joy. A Profile of Tony Homsy S.J.

Let me set the scene. We’re out on a hill in the middle of the Alaskan tundra. The sun is just setting at 11:30 pm, and there are monstrous mosquitos flying around our huddled group. Suddenly, a Syrian man stands up, smiles, opens his arms wide as if embracing the annoying insects, and makes us all roll with laughter. This is Tony Homsy S.J.

Tony with the mosquitoes.  He never fails to make us laugh. (Photo courtesy of Tim Guthrie)
Tony with the mosquitoes. He never fails to make us laugh. (Photo courtesy of Tim Guthrie)

For two weeks, Tony was in Bethel, Alaska using his photography skills to help create a documentary. Not only was he in Alaska, but he was also just about as far away from his home country of Syria as he could be. He was literally on the other side of the world.

“Funny story,” he said when I asked him why he chose to come on this trip. How Tony ended up in Alaska actually happens to be the fulfilment of a joke he made with a friend a year before. While Tony was still studying in Lebanon, his friend was studying in Paris.

“Okay, I’m going to Alaska,” Tony said when his friend started teasing him. He never thought it would actually happen. What was once a silly exaggeration became a reality when he signed up for the Backpack Journalism course about six months later.

Originally, Tony is from the largest city in Syria, known as Halab to locals and Aleppo to the rest of us.  It’s been awhile since he’s seen his family in person. In fact, it was May of 2013 when he last saw is brother and July of 2012 was when he last saw his sister. Despite all of this, Tony still manages to be the most joyful person I’ve met.

Enjoying the mountains. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Tedesco)
Enjoying the mountains. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Tedesco)

“Wherever you are, live with joy.” This is what Tony told me he learned while he was in Bethel. At first, he said he was skeptical about how people could spend a part or all of their lives in Bethel. Then, he spent a day with a man named Arvin. Tony could see that, even though Arvin was living in the middle of nowhere, he was still filled with joy.

“Not because he was wealthy…just because he embraced his life.”

For the past year, Tony has been a student (more specifically, a special student as he makes sure to tell us) at Creighton studying photojournalism. Photography and journalism are not new interests for Tony. He’s been practicing for years now. For him, it’s become much more than a hobby.

“I feel like photography and digital journalism is not just service, but it’s more of like a vocation,” he said. “This is the special gift that God give to Tony, and Tony, if he is Ignatian person, he needs to go more.”

Tony is always ready to take the perfect shot.
Tony is always ready to take the perfect shot.

And what a gift it is. Anyone who has seen Tony’s photos knows that he has a very special talent. Photography holds a special meaning for him, which he effortlessly conveys in each snapshot. For his daily Instagram photos, he tries to select a photo and a single word that embodies what the day meant to him or the most meaningful part of his day. You can visit Tony’s Instagram here.

We all like to joke about Tony being a Jesuit. He loves to give it right back to us too. One of my favorite moments on the trip was when I had just borrowed Tony’s bug spray.

“Thanks Tony,” I said. “I really appreciate it.”

“Ah, that is the Jesuit way,” he replied. “We share. You want bug spray, I give it to you. You want to use my Macbook…”

“And you give it to me?”

“Ahhh no!” he shouted. “Are you crazy?”

But in all seriousness, Tony exemplifies Ignatian spirituality. He is constantly searching for God in all things. As Tony sees it, nothing, not even the mosquitoes or a town in the middle of nowhere is out of God’s reach.

Never without a camera. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Tedesco).
Never without a camera. (Photo courtesy of Stephanie Tedesco).

“We embrace everything that leads us to God,” he shared. He embraced Bethel, and he will embrace Syria when he returns in August. Embracing life and joy is something that Tony seems to do better than anyone. Through his talent in photography and his wonderful sense of humor, it’s easy to see that Tony will continue to help people live their lives with joy.


From right to the left, Nico Sandi, Tony Homsy SJ, and Tim Guthrie. Alaska, Fox island
From right to the left, Nico Sandi, Tony Homsy SJ, and Tim Guthrie. Alaska, Fox island

Many of you had listened to my story, and how I came to Creighton, actually by a personal invitation from Fr. Don Doll, S.J. And most of you would hear me talking about our friendship, two Jesuits photographer (an amateur and a Professional) share the same passion about photography as a mission and as a vocation, more than anything else. Our relation has been getting deeper and deeper, especially when Fr. Don keeps providing me by nice tools, (you can call me a “user”).  Continue reading Friendography…

Nearing the End

Tonight marks Tuesday night, which means we only have two full days left here in Bethel. That also means that in two days, our documentary will officially be in our possession.

Not edited and finished though, of course.

As you may or may not know, Friday morning our time in Bethel ends as we embark on a journey to Seward, Alaska. Our job as film makers will be put on hold while we zone into our inner tourists/little kids and simply explore the sites to see. What this also symbolizes is the end of our filming. Once we leave, there is no coming back. Hidden inside the many hours of footage that have been captured during our stay lies the film that we’ll title and share with all of you.

I realized this thought late last night, on yet another sunset walk. Like the setting sun, it’s bitter sweet to imagine that in so many ways, this experience is lurching towards the end. While I’m beyond excited to begin the editing process and complete our film, I’m terribly sad that the filming side is almost done.

Exploring Bethel to film B-roll has been an absolute treasure. Something about looking through a lens makes you see the world differently. As you stare at a location through the eye of the camera, it forces you to slow down and take it all in. The shapes, the colors, and how objects relate to one another. This trip has given me the opportunity to view Bethel in the most beautiful way possible and even though I’m terribly sad to leave it so soon, I’m ecstatic to share what we’ve witnessed with everyone back home.