Susanne Childers is a visionary, not only a woman who has faith to see change, but one who looks at the world through the lens of a camera. She is a native of Germany where she studied photography and worked professionally for 10 years, specializing in portraiture. For Susanne, the camera is more than a device through which she can capture powerful images: it is a pen, a sword, her voice. Her camera is a way of communicating with the world and naming things. And she has put her camera to use, working on community development projects in nations like Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Nepal, and India to advocate for those who suffer injustice.
I first met Susi, as her friends call her, at a leadership seminar in Kona, Hawaii in 2003 along with her husband Paul, with whom she recently launched a school that combines the study of culture, scripture, and photography. At the time, she shared some of her photographs and spoke with honesty and passion, her words cutting to the heart as she told of injustices like female genital mutilation and children sold into sex slavery, terrible things she has seen first hand in her extensive world travels.
Her photography makes impact and evokes a response. When I first saw her calendar The Eyes of Afghanistan I was compelled to engage her work and did so with a series of poems that coincided with each picture.
Susi’s most recent work, among her other publications which can be viewed and purchased through photogenX is featured in the booklet 30 Days of Prayer for the Voiceless, a publication that highlights issues of gender-based injustice worldwide. The booklets set Susi’s photographs and creative short stories alongside staggering statistics, prayer points, and suggestions for action.
About the booklets Susi said the following, “the pictures are for the eyes, the statistics for the mind and the stories for the heart. The three combined should not leave anyone untouched.” And here her vision becomes both inspiring and audacious: she risks the belief that some of the ugly issues of injustice that scar our world will be eradicated in her lifetime.
I asked Susi a few questions about her approach to the art of photography.
Andrew Kooman: Susi, your photographs are powerful. You capture something subtle but deep about your subjects, and we often see it through the subject’s eyes. What, as a photographer, is it like to look through the lens at all different sorts of people around the world, and at injustice? What happens in you as you travel the globe and take photographs of beautiful but suffering people?
Susi Childers: In all the challenges of poverty,injustice and hurt it is still the greatest privilege to be able to interact with people from different tribes and languages by using a camera. I have never stopped being in awe of the beauty of each individual no matter the circumstances they are in. Meeting all these different people changed my life too.
I often explain it the following way. Each suffering I saw has left a scar in my heart. A scar is not something nice. But each scar made me into who I am today. I am thankful for every connection I had – hard or easy – because I became a different person through them and I don’t take things for granted!
AK: How has your approach to photography changed since you worked as a professional photographer in Germany to today – what’s different?
SC: Its been so freeing to not be bound by money. As a photographer who lived off my work I had to take pictures the way people wanted them. Now I can take the pictures the way I see them. I often experience that God shows me what he sees and that’s not always easy. But it so much more exciting!
AK: As an artist, how do you keep your art form fresh and exciting so that you don’t tire of what you do?
SC: I do something with the pictures I take. The one sure way to lose all joy of taking pictures is to put them in folders or drawers and never do anything with them. Pictures are taken to be shown, not to be stored. Whenever I hold a new publication in my hands the fire and passion for photography is refreshed!
AK: As a creative person and communicator, and, as a leader of a training school that emphasizes photography and Christian teaching, how do you see these two things intersecting and working together?
SC: Skill with character is only half of the thing. As people develop skill they
should also be trained in character. The two things go closely together. That’s why we train people in both and its fun to watch their development.
I believe it makes a difference if a person behind a camera is a Christian. God challenges us to worship him with our all, so no matter what gift or profession we have we are to worship. In teaching both we bridge the gap between the wrong ideas of secular and sacred!
View some of Susanne Childers’ photographs here.
* photographs courtesy of photogenX
Purchase the work of Susanne Childers:
A Voice for the Voiceless. A beautiful calendar featuring the stunning photographs of Susanne Childers, and the faces of women, children and refugees from around the world. Proceeds from the calendar are given to the work of a new publication focused on raising awareness about the plight of abused migrant workers in South East Asia.
Calendar Stats –
Language: English and German; Multi-year; Size: 9×12.5 inches (folded); 9×25 inches (unfolded); :: $21.00
– It is a full color print
30 Days of Prayer for the Voiceless. With more than 100,000 copies in print and translated into 5 languages, these booklets are opening peoples’ eyes and hearts to the issues of injutsice so many women and children face around the world. Examining 30 issues of injustice, including Female Genital Mutilation, Human Trafficking, and Slavery, the booklets are filled with facts, stories, photographs, prayer and action points.
A must read book! $5.00 :: Buy it HERE