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Photojournalists’ group nurtures support, witness for faith

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–In the mid-1970s, a group of 12 Christian photographers formed a mailing list to share prayer requests and encourage one another in their faith.

Led by Gary Fong, who is now director of editorial graphics technology at the San Francisco Chronicle, the group named itself Christians in Photojournalism and began ministering to photographers.

“A wonderful ministry 2,000 years ago got started with 12 guys, and it just kept going,” Fong told Baptist Press. “We thought that would be an interesting parallel. So we said, ‘If God wants this group to get going, He can use anybody to do it. And if it’s not us, it’s somebody else. And if it’s somebody else, they would get the blessings…. And we didn’t want to miss the blessings.’”

Thirty years later, the group has grown from 12 to 1,200 and includes Pulitzer Prize-winners, photographers from major newspapers and contributors to such noted magazines as Sports Illustrated and Newsweek.

“We met some of the best photographers in the country, who love God, who have some of the most interesting talents,” Fong said.

Christians in Photojournalism (CIP) requires no dues from members and does not hold many formal meetings, focusing instead on publishing a newsletter, maintaining a website at www.christiansinphotojournalism.org and encouraging one another through regular contacts.

“My personal vision is to see Christian journalists gather together and empower one another with encouragement not only in their spiritual walk but in their profession,” Fong said.

As non-Christian photojournalists observe the friendship and warmth of CIP, opportunities to share the Gospel frequently arise, Fong said, noting that over the years a number of photographers have committed their lives to Christ though the group’s witness.

Fong remembers when a woman approached him at the annual Southwestern Photojournalism Conference at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. A photographer herself, the woman told Fong that she heard him share how to become a Christian at a previous Southwestern Photojournalism Conference. She went home pondering Fong’s words and eventually committed her life to Jesus one night in her bedroom.

On another occasion when Fong spoke at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference, he received word after the session that a photographer from the Dallas Morning News wanted to speak with him. When Fong approached the photographer, the man said with tears in his eyes that he wanted to receive Jesus Christ as his Savior. Fong went over the Gospel again with him led him in a prayer of commitment.

“There are just moments that a photographer will share with a photographer about things that we have a passion for — not only our craft, but our faith,” Fong said. “The Gospel touched him just like it will touch anybody, and we’ve seen that time and time again.”

Despite the group’s lack of advertising, an average of one person per day asks to be on the mailing list. Many discover CIP through Google Internet searches for Christian photojournalists. Some newcomers are seeking spiritual answers and turn to the Christian photographers for wisdom.

“We love to share the Gospel and have an opportunity to do that and to fellowship and let our profession be a part of our ministry,” Fong said. “It doesn’t mean that we do a lesser job at our profession. We want to be the best that we can be in our profession, that God would get glory for that.”

CIP’s pursuit of excellence has contributed to some of the most famous pictures in photojournalism, including Fong’s photograph of the assassination attempt of President Gerald Ford, David Black’s photographs of the Olympic Games and Patrick Murphy Racey’s photographs for Sports Illustrated.

Each picture tells a story and those stories serve as reminders that God has used CIP to accomplish His work and His will, Fong said.

“We’re just blown away about some of the people God has brought our way,” he said. “There’s a joy in our heart that comes from hearing some of the stories. It’s amazing, and it’s every day.”