When the angel appeared to Mary following Jesus’ resurrection, he said, “Come and see, so you can go and tell.” Throughout his career as a photojournalist, bus driver, Ph.D. student, and now, Assistant Professor of Journalism at Arkansas State University, Dr. Gabriel Tait has done just that. Using photography, he blends his passion for God’s mission with his role as a professor, teaching students to focus, zoom and frame in order to capture God’s story.
“Paul was a tent maker,” Tait said. “I am a visual journalist. I have been given a platform to teach others and to empower others to use their gifts.”
Now in his third year of teaching, Tait has learned the importance of contextualizing his content for his audience.
He recently took 18 student-athletes to London as part of the Sports, Photography and Culture class he created. During the three-week visit, students learned about sports and culture in England and how photography can serve as an intersection point for the two. But in addition to the typical sightseeing, he and his students also visited John Wesley’s home, grave and church.
“My students have to have a reason to care about the information that I’m presenting,” he said. “However, they know that what I’m going to say is through the lens of me being a believer.”
In Tait’s visual communication class, his 90 students from the A-State College of Media and Communication discuss everything from the Confederate flag to the cross. Using real-life faith discussions, Tait helps his class learn about symbols and the meaning(s) behind them.
“A symbol is only a symbol if its meaning(s) can be interpreted by someone else who transmits it to someone else,” Tait said.“ The cross by itself means nothing. It’s the meaning that’s associated with the symbol that actually gives the message.”
These discussions encourage his students to thoughtfully contemplate the deeper meaning behind familiar images.