Friday Fives: Five Iconic Photos That Will Preach

(Warning, before you scroll through this post, please know that some will find the images disturbing. They are presented here for their potential to communicate powerfully in the appropriate teaching context. If you feel that any are inappropriate based on the purpose of, please email me your thoughts.)

During a time when video has become so easy to access and use for preaching or teaching, I think the use of still photographs can be a way to add emphasis to a preaching point that might not be as effective with a video, particularly photographs that are filled with emotion and that are iconic – well known for their context as having captured a moment in time that is very powerful. While, for instance, you wouldn’t normally play a video while preaching, you could put a powerful photograph on the screen and leave it up while you teach, adding to the power of the point you are making.

In that spirit, this week’s Friday Fives presents five iconic photos that just might preach.

#5 The Oklahoma City Bombing - Charles Porter

Background: Charles Porter’s photo of Oklahoma City fireman Chris Fields carrying little Baylee Almon away from the bombed Alfred R. Murrah building, is the epitome of iconic. It takes Americans back to that April 19, 1995 tragedy in which a daycare center was in ruins among the rubble. Baylee would have turned 21 last month. She celebrated her first birthday the day before she was killed in the bombing.

Fields is a major now and about a year away from retirement. Baylee’s mom is married and lives in Choctaw, Oklahoma with her husband and two children.

Possible Sermon Points: Grief, mourning, tragedy, overcoming, recovery, gentleness.


Charles Porter, AP

#4 Sandy Hook - Shannon Hicks

Background: Hicks was associated editor and photographer for The Newtown Bee when she arrived on the Sandy Hook campus at 9:59 on Friday, December 14, 2012. She remembers that day vividly, of course. “Parents just started yelling their children’s names,” she recalls. She took photo after photo amid the screams. At about 10:10, she snapped the shot of Connecticut State Police officers leading children from the building. It has become a symbol of Sandy Hook.

“I knew that, coming out of the building — as terrified as they were — those children were safe,” she said. “I just felt that it was an important moment.”

Possible Sermon Points: Protection, calm in the storm, rescue, discipline, security.


Shannon Hicks – Newtown Bee/AP

#3 The Marathon Bombing - John Tlumacki

Background: Tlumacki, a Boston Globe photographer remembers the moment: “This photo was taken within seconds after the first bomb exploded a little over 45 feet away from me.  I remember one of the last runners was a man who was holding the hands of children. There was applause from the spectators that lined the sidewalk near the finish line. It was not unusual for me to still be shooting over two and a half hours after the winners already finished. I always made some of my best photos at that time — of runners dressed in costumes or crawling to the finish line. The average runners were running now, and most were raising money for different charities. When the bomb went off, I was jolted by the explosion to the point that my horizon was tilted in my photos. I looked to the right in the direction of the bomb and first thought that maybe a canon salute went off, or even a manhole cover exploded. At the same time I was running forward already, and saw Bill Iffrig on the ground as I ran toward him. I just kept shooting and the three Boston Police officers ran toward him and me as the second bomb exploded about three blocks away in the background. I just kept shooting and ran to the fence that was along the sidewalk.”

Possible Sermon Points: Guardians, running the race, the unexpected.


John Tlumacki, The Boston Globe/Getty Images

#2 Ground Zero - Thomas Franklin

Background: The photograph is probably the most iconic taken at ground zero, recalling the Joe Rosenthal photo from WWII, Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. In the 9/11 version, firefighters Daniel McWilliams, George Johnson and William “Billy” Eisengrein stand in the ruins late that afternoon to raise the flag.

Franklin was a staff photographer for The Record in Bergen County, N.J.

Possible Sermon Points: Determination, perseverance, courage, honor.


Thomas Franklin

#1 Sudan Famine - Kevin Carter

Background: This may be one of the most controversial photos on the list, it is certainly the most gut-wrenching. In March 1993, while on a trip to Sudan, free lance photographer Kevin Carter took the photo of the starving child trying to reach a feeding center while a vulture watches.

Carter came under fire internationally for not helping the little girl.  He said he took the picture because that was his job.  After he sold the photo to the New York Times, the paper reported receiving hundreds of calls from people wanting to learn the fate of the little girl. The Times reported that it wasn’t known if she reached the feeding center.

In April 1994, the photograph won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography. Carter committed suicide three months later.  

Possible Sermon Points: Missions, satan, spiritual warfare, tragedy, evil.


Kevin Carter, The New York Times


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