One student’s photo deeply surprised me

Last week I set a group of students a writing challenge (if you don’t know, I teach English as a foreign language as my day job). This specific writing challenge was to describe their favourite photo. Nothing too hard but very rewarding as they get to show off a photo they like (either one they took or someone else took) and use some simple describing words. It’s something I’d like to do myself at some point, but what I want to look at today is the answer one of my students gave me and the impact it had on me.

For the students privacy and so on I’m not publishing it here.

At first glance I couldn’t see anything impressive about it. It looked like a simple snapshot of three friends together. The light was okay (flash from a point and shoot), the composition didn’t distract but didn’t really stand out and the people in the image looked fairly average. I guessed it was a group of his friends on a night out as it looked like it might be a pub.
 I started to read his description and it quickly became apparent that this was an extra ordinary photo.

It turned out that he had taken this picture at an online game (he didn’t specify which one) gathering in Germany. It was on a night out with some of the people there who had met for the first time. But here’s the kicker. They were from countries “weren’t supposed to” get on. Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. As I’m sure you’re aware, there is some bad blood over the conflict that happened in the 90s and those tensions haven’t gone away for everyone. Yet this image offered a different story.

This image showed people who just got on and according to my student, seemed like they had been friends for years. In these times where we can see people spreading division between different groups, it was a powerful reminder of unity.

As a christian I looked to verses like “There is no Jew nor Gentile, no man nor woman, no slave nor free” and the picture in Revelation of all tribes and people groups being united together as a symbol of hope. Hope for a future where we are united. Sometimes that feels so distant, especially when I see so many divisions between people who claim to be christians (and let’s not even get into the recent US election.)

In times like these, as photographers and christians, we can choose what story we tell. One of rivals against each other, or one of unity. I’m not saying you choose to edit out the elements which don’t reflect the story you want to tell, but you can choose to focus on those things which you wish to focus on. If you want to focus on hate, you’ll find it, but if you want to focus on love, you can find that too, even in the darkest times.

Between rivals and unity, I’m going to choose the later.

Originally published at Chris J Wilson.

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