I heard from two unexpected sources of wisdom this past week: David Johnson, President of Silent Images, and Scott Dikkers, a founding editor of The Onion. It’s quite an unlikely pairing. On one hand, by highlighting the beauty of people amidst tragedy, David uses his camera to help “bring justice, freedom, and a voice” to the voiceless. On the other hand, by targeting the “foibles of humanity” everywhere, Scott uses humor to satirize traditional media coverage of current events. Yet as different as they are, both use stories in unexpected, necessary, and ultimately sticky ways that resonate with people. They challenge people to re-evaluate their perspectives of others and recognize their shared humanity – the impact I would like my storytelling to have too. These are some of my takeaways from their talks.
“Seeing the World Through a New Lens” (DJ)
- Be a passionate person about everything I do. I’ll never know when and where that perfect opportunity will arise.
- God has called me to love all people. I can use the camera in my hands to respond to the injustice I see around me.
- I am here to serve first, then photograph.
- When building a creative team, find people who are smarter than me.
- Personal impact of all the tragedy and pain that David has witnessed and documented:
- Wonder at the depth of God’s unconditional love for such a broken humanity
- Joy and comfort that God is sovereign and will one day restore justice
- Conviction and responsibility to collaboratively participate in the reconciliation process
“The Funny Story Behind the Funny Stories” (SD)
- Nothing is effortless. Even the most naturally talented comedians had to learn how to make people laugh, and often the hard way (e.g. out of necessity as an emotional coping mechanism).
- Basic Principles of Creative Leadership
- Live my mission, and I will become a person of vision. Find out what I need to do or want to do, and just do it. Doing so will create a center of gravity that draws people to me.
- Invest my passion, not my money. Heart is all I need.
- Be prepared to scrap everything. If I’ve invested your money and it’s just not working out, maybe I need to redirect my passion.
- Trust my people. Surround myself with people who are smarter than me, who love what they do, and who need to be doing it to be happy. They will work hard, but I need to trust them.
- Work right. Learn from those who have gone before me.
Altogether, their advice really encourages me that I’m doing the right thing by focusing on my artistic potential. When I am sharing stories, I feel like I’m doing what I was created to do.