the artist panel

speakers: @estherhavens@jonathanolinger @aaronivey

question: what captures you, when you are caught up in someone's story, to tell the story the way you do? answer: [esther] you can't not tell it. when i meet someone who has a story others don't know, i am compelled to share. why wouldn't i want to share? I want others to know this person just like i do now.

question: what moves you away from being a voyeur to a storyteller? answer: [aaron] i've seen my life going from something that was broken to something that is fixed. i've seen the gospel in my own life. so when i see someone who is in need of the story of redemption or who resonates the story of redemption, i am stirred to write a song or place it into a story so others can experience it and hear it.

question: jonathan, talk to me about suffering - about capturing the pain of another. answer: that's a loaded question because it goes to the depth of who you are as a storyteller. a lot of the stories i'm humbled to be inserted into are very painful stories of people's deepest agony. suffering is a crazy thing. it's a delicate balance between listening to someone suffering and communicating it with another in a way that's dignified and respective. every situation of injustice we've seen, artist or not, is because of a broken relationship.

everything comes down to relationship. story is how we form relationship.

so...if every story can be linked to some sort of broken relationship, art is a very restorative process. by building a relationship with another, you realize everyone is the same. through story, you able to enter into someone else's pain. you hear what they have to say and you can just be there and dwell. it's how we absorb each other's pain. eventually, we can carry each other's loads.

question: what would you say to only images can set words in motion? answer: [aaron] i didn't really experience suffering until i went to haiti. i saw and touched and embraced suffering. it wasn't a story i heard but something i experienced. the visual has always stirred the verbage for me. it's impossible to separate the two.  i think it's crucial for any artist to not only have dreams for what he wants to create, but to get his hands dirty.

you can't just hear stories you have to live stories.

[esther] i keep thinking of suffering. it's what Jesus did for us - he came down and met us in our suffering and pain. this is who we are supposed to model after - it's just not in our talents as storytellers, it's in everyone. connecting with the hearts of other people.

question: art moves to not speak of the facts of life but to get us to see behind those facts. in your artistry, do you get behind the facts and what do you find? how do you try to communicate this? answer: [aaron] in my experience, very few facts are black and white. after you see past the initial camouflage, you notice there are very few truths in the world at face value. it always goes back to the gospel. with orphan care, it's easy to see face value. the more you embrace it, the more you visit and live and breathe, you understand the story is more complex than you give it credit for - with a whole lot more problems and issues than we would readily accept.

[jonathan] yes. when you tell a story in the right way, it does this. to just come out and say it, to say "this rebel group is wrong" as though it's black and white, we've found when you let a child speak, things become simple. facts needing to be said emerge to the surface. for sure art does this - it has a way to package all the facts and nuances. it's how so many people are able to resonate on multiple levels of stories. they are multi-faceted.

question: was there ever a moment you had to step away from the camera because what you were involved in was way too much for you? or when the words cause fear? answer:  [aaron] i can think of a few critical moments where i've had to see something that's so difficult to see it was impossible to place it into words - to wrap it into words seemed frivolous and cheap. this is my biggest struggle as an artist. we are motivated by wanting to express what we see and experience, but frustrated because they feel they can't ever express it or find words. i'm pushed to not just be a songwriter when inspiration comes but always. i've become content with knowing that there are some songs no one will ever hear. it's okay to constantly push this boundary and challenge people with what you hear and see. but, not everything is for everyone to experience. it may just be for me to wrestle with because it helps me in my ability to create future things or stirs my affections for God.

[esther] my biggest moment was in the drc - but also in haiti last year. when is it a time to shoot and when is it the time to help people? the question of will this story actually do something constantly rolls through my mind. i still feel like putting the camera down and crying because it's just too difficult, but the struggle to push through - to capture the story - is there.

[jonathan] the focus is people. there's moments where you realize the story is important but the person needs assistance. ultimately, my inclination is to say our job as artists is to capture these stories and there is a risk involved in this. sometimes it's difficult, but it's our purpose. this creates a hard balance.

Posted on February 25, 2011 .