This article was first published in the Oct/Nov 2017 print and e-edition of Global Geneva magazine.
FOR AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER MIKE DUBOSE, a former news agency and newspaper staffer, who was inspired by his father, an amateur photographer, this is the journey that he has taken to provide the quality journalism that he believes is crucial for us to better understand the world around us. “My father was always very supportive of my career decisions, even as I struggled to find full-time employment as a photojournalist,” Dubose recalls.
For nearly 22 years now, he has been working for the United Methodist Communications based in Nashville, Tennessee, a church-based organization that has allowed him to travel Africa and other parts of the world to pursue the work he loves. “Working as a daily newspaper photographer was one of the most challenging and rewarding things I’ve ever done,” Dubose explains.
“Every day was a clean slate. If you screwed up yesterday, today’s your chance to do better. And if you had a great day, that’s fine, ‘but what have you got for tomorrow’s paper?’ There’s nothing like starting your work day not knowing where it might take you and what skills you’ll have to call on to get the job done.”
As DuBose puts it, daily photojournalism is all about witnessing the diversity of life in your community. You have to be comfortable in your own skin and be able to move in and out of people’s lives in a way that allows you access to their best and worst days. “As a photographer, I have always tried to give an honest look at the world around me and I enjoyed taking our readers to new places or giving them a fresh view of the familiar.”
At the same time, he notes, newspaper photojournalism does not allow much introspection. It puts a premium on the ‘quick read.’ “A good news photo makes its point quickly with minimal support from the caption,” DuBose says.
There were some great “photo papers” that encouraged longer-form projects with room for pictures that would make the readers think. “But most of time, we were after a strong, single image to tell the story.”
For DuBose, an informed public is vital to our society with newspapers serving as the foundation of this knowledge.
His first reporting job was at a Scripps-Howard paper. “I think their motto is more important today than ever before, notably: “Give light and the people will find their own way.” Despite his passion for being a news photographer, he found himself becoming disillusioned with the newspaper business.
This was one of the reasons that he decided to work for the United Methodists, a church group extremely active in the United States but also Africa. “After 10 years I felt like I hadn’t really accomplished anything lasting. And I realized that my standing in the newsroom would always be subordinate to all but the newest reporters,” he says.
Despite being raised in the church, both DuBose and his wife, as with many young people, had fallen out of the habit of attending regularly until their first child was born. They began going again for a few months and it was then that he came across a UM ad seeking a photojournalist.
“I went to speak with my pastor about it. Though he didn’t know me well, he took a chance on me and helped me get an interview,” he says. “I hadn’t actually intended to look for a new job, but the opportunity to build a photography ministry from scratch and to capture some photos with a real purpose pulled me in.”
Working with UMC now enables DuBose – almost to the point of luxury of time and travel – when compared to newspaper reporting – to engage in the sort of photography that he believes allows him to put across the real nature of people and the situations in which they live. “While I have my assignments for UMC, I can head out on my own – or with the people I am travelling – and explore, move around and do what I believe is necessary for my work. It is very satisfying.”
Mike is currently working on an assignment to help illustrate the importance of access to clean water for work. Last year, as part of a personal project, he walked with a group of Mexican religious pilgrims to venerate the Virgin of Juquila in Oaxaca state in Mexico.
Edward Girardet, Editor
For more information on Mike DuBose and his photography, please contact: United Methodists Communications.