Pinneo says photojournalists are privileged to be allowed into people’s lives. “God has chosen us to be communicators,” she says. “If we see people, or even touch them, it’s kind of like touching the hem of Jesus’ robe.”
Joanna Pinneo started her career as a photojournalist in the photo lab of the Southern Baptist’s International Mission Board in Richmond, Virginia.
This nurturing environment strongly influenced her as a young Christian and an early-career photojournalist. “I was struggling with my own identity and how my faith fit into it,” Pinneo says.
Since then, Pinneo has traveled the world taking photographs and is one of the nation’s top magazine photographers. She has won third place in the Magazine Photographer of the Year competition and has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.
The lessons she learned on assignment burned in her heart long after she’d clicked the shutter. “You meet people who risk their lives to be Christians,” she recalls. “That’ll keep you up a few nights.”
Recently, Pinneo’s photographic passion has focused on the lives of teen girls. That effort was highly recognized when she was awarded the prestigious Nikon Documentary Sabbatical Grant. Her website, www.grrlstories.org, showcases photo galleries of Pinneo’s images.
“Grrlstories is a step in faith,” Pinneo says. “God really gives me patience, the determination to stick in there.”
For Pinneo, communicating Christian conviction may mean causing her audience to become uncomfortable. “We as Christian communicators are the ones who have to be responsible for telling these stories,” she explains. “Even if it’s not overt, it’s still important that we come from the [Christian] perspective. We have to tell and keep telling tough stories.” Pinneo believes photographers have a prophetic role and are “chosen to shine a light into the darkness of the world; that darkness is the absence of God; that darkness is why Jesus weeps.”