The Power of a Photograph

“I think that God wants us to see the standstill seconds of our lives in the best picture we can make of it. Whether it be the height of overwhelming goodness, or the depths of grievance that sometimes we cannot bear in the moment. The ability to remember how God is in the midst of our lives is vital to our spiritual growth moving forward, and nothing creates a better emotional connection to those moments than the power of a photograph.” - Alex

My name is Alex Tan. I recently moved to Chicago last summer after taking a leap of faith to leave school and pursue photo & video work full time. Since then I’ve been able to get plugged in with People Church, and serve in a way that I’ve never been able to before. People Church met me where I was at and recognized that my gifts could be used to benefit the church, or God’s Kingdom. You’ll see a lot of my photographs on our social media (@peoplechurch) and the headers on the landing pages of our website!

I’ve only been taking photographs for two years, and prior to finding photography as a passion, my faith and relationship with Jesus felt as if it were withered away to almost nothing by my continual state of apathy. My taste was always different than people that were around me. I liked music that nobody else did, photographs, words, poems, and almost everything else that a guy in a small town high school could be made fun of for. I struggled with social identity and wanting to fit in so badly that I tried to abandon most of who I was toward the end of my high school years and pursue the path of those who were gaining attention.

After the first semester of my freshman year of college, feeling more emotionally lost than I ever had before, I started to encounter people that changed my life forever. I wasn’t a “photographer” at that time, but I would take photos of things that I had interest in. With the gaining ground of Instagram and the community widening daily, I was able to start connecting with first people at my college, then people in the city. I would reach out to other photographers and ask if they wanted to sit down for lunch or coffee. I’d ask them about their lives, how they got started, or how could I become a better photographer. Every time I’d leave feeling more encouraged than I had in a very long time. 

What I found later is that many of these people were followers of Jesus. It had been years since I sat across the table from somebody that genuinely cared about me and what I was going through, when they had no reason to. I had forgotten what it felt like to receive undeserved love from strangers. Not the kind of love that could be seen or touched, but the kind of love that could be felt from miles away.

It was the kind of love that knew when you were having a horrible week, and a message would pop up on your phone saying “Hey, I hope you’re doing well. Let’s grab dinner and catch up tonight."

Two years later I sit back and think all the time how God used my curiosity for art to lead me on a path where I’d ultimately run into his love and it would wreck my world. In reality, I was looking for something in my life to fill the void of emptiness, but in the midst of finding passion that would later turn into my career, I found Jesus again at the same time. 

Since finding photography, God has provided me with more amazing opportunities than I can even count. I’ve travelled more, eaten better, and have met more people in the last two years than I have all my life leading up to it. I live in Chicago and work full time as a photographer at a creative agency in the West Loop. I get to capture emotion on Sunday mornings and create a visual story of what God is doing at People Church every day. 

I believe that photography and the essence of visual art is so important in the church. I believe that it is something we should care about, and something that we should practice. I think that God wants us to see the standstill seconds of our lives in the best picture we can make of it. Whether it be the height of overwhelming goodness, or the depths of grievance that sometimes we cannot bear in the moment. The ability to remember how God is in the midst of our lives is vital to our spiritual growth moving forward, and nothing creates a better emotional connection to those moments than the power of a photograph.

I’m thankful for People Church, Chicago, the community of people in my life, family, my camera, my abilities, for undeserved grace, and endless love. 

People Church