Jesuit Father Don Doll has been a photographer — his second calling — for 50 years. The New York Times Lens blog recently examined the connection between Fr. Doll’s first calling to the priesthood and his calling to photography.
Fr. Doll began taking photos while working on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota in 1962. He said that after taking photos for over two years, he became discouraged because he “still hadn’t taken a decent picture.”
He considered giving up photography and went for a walk in the South Dakota prairie to think about what his mission as a Jesuit should be. “I heard a loud voice saying: ‘Stay with photography. It’s the first thing you really loved doing. Stay with it. Don’t worry if it takes 10 years,’ ” he recalls.
Fr. Doll stuck with photography, and his work has been published in National Geographic magazine and three books. His newest publication is an autobiographical book “A Call to Vision: A Jesuit’s Perspective on the World.”
Fr. Doll has used photography to promote Native American culture. “I learned to respect another culture, because we were immersed in it,” Fr. Doll said. “And I really learned about the values that the Native Americans have of sharing and their sense of generosity with one another, and how they honor you.”
In 1974, Fr. Doll returned to the Rosebud Reservation as a documentary photographer. He said he often prayed before releasing the shutter. “I used to pray that I could really make photographs that portrayed how special they are and something of the empathy they had and that God has for them,” he explained.
During a 30-day retreat, Fr. Doll discovered a link between prayer and photography. “I said: ‘Oh my god! Prayer is just like photography, where you have to let go of what you want to happen or what you think’s going to happen. You have to let go of your preconceptions and I think that same thing applies to photographing. You have to let go of your suppositions of what the picture is or should be and just be present in the moment.’ ”
Read the full story about Fr. Doll on the New York Times website and watch the Creighton University video that celebrates the photography of Fr. Doll below.