Archive: ‘Thoughts’

Southwestern Photojournalism Conference

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

We are so thrilled to be on our way to speak at the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference in Fort Worth, TX this week! We feel beyond humbled to have been asked to speak with the incredible faculty at this year’s conference. It really is amazing to us to be able to go and learn from our peers as well as sit alongside those whose work we admire so much.

The conference is an intimate gathering of professional photographers from all over the world who are dedicated to visual storytelling. It starts with a student practicum designed to let students have a workshop experience with professional mentors, and moves into three days of hearing from faculty presenters from all facets of our profession. Everyone has the opportunity to show work from the year to the entire group, as well as meet individually throughout the weekend. When everything ends for each day, our favorite part of the conference begins. Students, professionals, and teachers rarely head off for the night, but instead stay in the conference building and spend time with one another showing their work and asking for critique and advice. It’s a community experience that we have grown to treasure in the years that we have attended, and love coming back to see friends we have met along the way.

We are so excited about the weekend, and know that our inclusion in the speaking panel is not because of our merit as photographers, but instead is because we are supposed to be there for a greater purpose … one in which we know the Lord has orchestrated. We are thrilled to see what the conference holds and what relationships will be built – we are ready to learn from those who we respect so deeply! Pray for us as we speak … that we would share the message and images that would not exalt ourselves, but instead, our Creator.

Hello Texas, here we come!


The McDaniel Family

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

April is Autism Awareness Month. Until a couple of years ago, this wasn’t really something I paused to consider. Autism was just another thing you would hear about that some children dealt with, but in my mind, it was pretty distant to most families. Last year I had the opportunity to visually tell a family’s story that impacted me deeply. Autism is not just a distant reality for them, but instead plays a central role in their story. While this isn’t the type of work we generally post on the blog, I felt like showing a little glimpse into the world of one of the most beautiful families I have ever met was perfect for April.

Two years ago, I was in the middle of working on my masters in communication. I was trying to find a way to tie photojournalism and visual storytelling into a communication program that was traditionally based in rhetoric and verbal study. In the masters program, you work for two years on course work, but finish with a final thesis project that illustrates all that you have learned and have tried to accomplish. Generally this would come in the form of a study, followed by an intense paper of some sort that you would present and defend to your department. While I had my fair share of intense papers, I felt like I needed something different… I needed a story to tell that would illustrate how visual communication powerfully pushes back the barriers that written and spoken rhetoric only describe. In effect, I needed to show someone who was a visual rhetorician… someone whose story would help to bridge the gap between a photojournalist like myself, and an academic department focused mainly on the written word.

That’s when I found Angela McDaniel and her family. The McDaniels live in Jackson, Tennessee. They are a family with two autistic children. Steven and Angela work hard to not only provide physically for their children, but also to provide a way for them to communicate and become as integrated into normal childhood development as possible. For this family, autism touches almost every area of their lives, making them face challenges that most children never encounter.

Tammi, their oldest child, and Henry, their youngest, are both autistic. Elizabeth, their middle child is the only one without the disorder. While each child has his or her own set of unique struggles, autism affects how the entire family communicates within their home as well as with society. Steven and Angela allowed me to come into their home over the course of several weeks to tell their story and to show what their life is like.

While autism is a huge factor in their lives, Steven and Angela work selflessly to make certain it is not what defines their family. Angela is an artist. She paints about the reality around her, and works in hopes that her art allows others to have a glimpse into their world. Her art is not only an outlet for her personal life, but has also translated into an outlet for others to understand the world of autism and to get to know her children for their individual, unique gifts.

“Accepting Perfection” is the title of one of Angela’s art pieces. The painting deals with her response to her process of coming to terms with her first child’s autism. Angela describes a trip out of town several years ago after learning Tammi’s diagnosis. All day she had been praying for answers or for some kind of understanding. She recalls walking into a bookstore and feeling an overwhelming sense of anger and desperation. Angela describes walking in and thinking, “Ok, there’s going to be this book that somebody who has already gone through this has written and it’s going to be my guidance … and then … no book.” She says this was what felt like the last straw. As she turned to leave, she ran into a rack of bookmarks with individual names on them with their meanings. She scanned through the cards to find “Tammi,” and looked down in tears as she read the meaning … “perfection.” She talks about how she realized that God was showing her a little glimpse of his plan, and how he views her family.

It’s been a year since I presented this work and got my masters, and although the assignment is complete and school is over, I know that I will not soon forget the impact that this family has made on my life. Now, as a mother myself, I have an even deeper appreciation for this family, and the love they share, as well as the perfect plan that God has for each of us… not matter what that “perfection” may look like.

So, in honor of Autism Awareness Month, here is a small portion of the McDaniel’s story, as well as a some images from the time I spent with them.

Steven, Angela, Tammi, Elizabeth and Henry … thank you so much for letting me share in your lives. I know I am a better person for the experience.

Happy Independence Day!

Monday, July 4th, 2011

We are so thankful to celebrate our freedom as a nation and those that help preserve it, but even more so, we are thankful for our freedom in Christ. We hope that you all have a wonderful holiday and that it is filled with family, fun and laughter.

Javen Photography


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