I had this idea to do something with this African congregation since last semester as a staff photographer for the Missourian. I never got around to it, but I'm glad that I was able to do the video and audio that hopefully did the Swahili service justice and write the story. It as really cool to see my story front page. I'm happy with the way it turned out and I'm happy that I was able to pitch this idea as my own.
I initially went to talk to Pastors Nene and Jean Claude beforehand to see if there was some time of angle I could use for the story. Luckily, both of them are truly passionate about what they do and really want to help people who come from Africa, mostly refugees, to still be able to practice their faith even if they don't really understand English. I thought the audio would be a little difficult to work with because I was using my mini TASCAM and not LAV mics, so I didn't really know how the audio was going to turn out until I listened to it after. I think I just got lucky with the small, quiet room they were in and their rich voices.
When I arrived at the church, I was pretty nervous. I didn't really know how people were going to react to me. I had nothing to worry about. Everyone was so nice and welcoming and even Pastor Jean Claude introduced me before he began the sermon. I was nice to have such a free range of motion in terms of where I could go to shoot. I was able to walk all over the auditorium without bothering people while during the service. After the service, all the kids would gather around me outside while I tried to get names of some of them, and they were all just so curious and wanted to know everything that I was doing. I really do want to go back.
The making the video was a little different than my two previous ones. This one just felt different to make because I really had to pay attention to the audio and to the music. I have never recorded as much audio as I did at this service. I didn't know what kind of music I wanted for the video, so I just recorded anything and everything that I felt accurately conveyed what it felt like to be there. Having done a video every two weeks or so, I think that my skills have definitely gotten to a point where I can work on them without feeling like it isn't going to work out. Sometimes I know that what I'm doing won't work. That's why I didn't make a video for Elemental, the escape room. The audio was not on par with what I wanted and it just wasn't as interesting as I thought it would be. It was disappointed to not make one, but at least I knew that it wasn't going to be good before I really committed. I'm really proud of this video. Even though this video took the longest, I was able to pay attention to every transition and video to ensure that it's exactly what I want.
I also took just a few different photographs during. Videotaping the four-hour service took up the life of two batteries, which was all I really had. The service was long, but I don't think there was ever a moment where I was bored. The emotions in faces were so compelling that I wish my telephoto worked while doing video, but for some reason, it just came out really dark. That's one thing I would have liked: tighter shots of faces. I was stuck with my 24-70mm and I really didn't want to get into people's personal bubbles. Especially when they are praying.
Although I didn't understand one word of the service, I felt the energy and the passion that everyone in that room had. I'm not very familiar with any type of religious service, but I don't know if that hindered my ability to see that this service was different than a typical Sunday service at Christian Fellowship.
Everything was just so different from what I'm only heard about or seen on TV. I think that's what helped me capture it through video so well. If I were used to what was going on, I don't think I would have found the details that I thought were so important to the scene.
But like always, I think I lack in the textual department when it comes to covering things. I think I got to talk to some really great people and give some informative details about the service and how it has helped many people in the African community, but I was just not able to fully describe all that I felt at the church through text. With some people's writing, I could literally feel like I'm there watching or hearing something. I just couldn't do that here. I think that's one way that I let the congregation down. There were no words that I used that could have described the feeling of being there, and I think that's my own fault.
Other than that, I think that this story came just in time for World Refugee Day and the commemoration of all refugees. I really wasn't aware of how many African refugees lived in Columbia, and I'm probably still ignorant to how many actually do live here, but I'm glad that I got to be apart of something that symbolizes hospitality and welcomeness.