A marching band from Queen of the Rosary School in Bo, Sierra Leone, leads a parade in celebration of the dedication of Valunia United Methodist Church in Monghere, outside Bo. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

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.

Children peer from a window at the United Methodist orphanage in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

“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.

Earl Wollitt (right, foreground) casts his eyes upward during worship at Seashore Mission United Methodist Church in Biloxi, Miss. “God put us in this building in this location for a reason. We are in a perfect place to do what we do—feed the body and the soul,” said Judy Longo, United Methodist local pastor and director of Seashore Mission. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

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.

Midwife Marie Manga Dikoma uses a Pinard horn to listen to the heartbeat of Cecile Iatu’s unborn baby at The United Methodist Church’s Irambo Health Center in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

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.

The Editors

 

Children watch from the doorway at Oye United Methodist Church, south of Kindu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

 

Mexican religious pilgrims make their way through the Valley of Oaxaca in Mexico’s Southern Sierra to honor the Virgin of Juquila. The group will carry their “Juquilita,” lovingly attached to a straight-backed chair, some 120 miles in a journey of devotion. Photo by Mike DuBose.

 

Students work together on spelling words in the combined kindergarten and first grade classroom at the Bishop Judith Craig Children’s Village in Duahzon, Liberia. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.
The Rev. Matt Hall conducts a renewal of wedding vows service for Nick and Stephanie Houle atop Sugar Run Mountain, just off the Appalachian Trail near Pearisburg, Va. Hall serves as a United Methodist chaplain appointed to the trail community. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

 

The Rev. Matt Hall hikes through a grove of rhododendron on the Appalachian Trail near Pearisburg, Va. Hall serves as a United Methodist chaplain appointed to the trail community. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS.

For more information on Mike DuBose and his photography, please contact: United Methodists Communications.

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