Hatteberg's People - Photographing The King James Bible

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Sunday, December 25, 2011

On Hatteberg's People, one of Kansas' great assets is National Geographic Photojournalist Jim Richardson who makes his home in Lindsborg. One of his recent photo assignments, appropriate for the season, was the King James Bible. It's the cover story for the December issue of National Geographic. It isn't a religious story. Instead, it reflects on how that version of the Bible affected more than our views of Christianity.

Richardson has been with National Geographic since 1984 and travels constantly all over the world. In his Lindsborg studio, he looks over the 27,000 pictures he shot for the story, "The King James Bible, Making a Masterpiece." It was a difficult assignment that sent him traveling in Europe, Jamaica and the U.S.

"Somehow we had to find ways of bringing it to life and bringing real action into it," said Richardson. "Trying to get real action happening around the Bible is rather difficult, because if you think of it, it is somebody sitting and a table and reading. That's a very difficult thing to make a picture of."

The thrust of the National Geographic story is that the King James Bible, printed 400 years ago, molded the English language, giving us common phrases we use today. It also enshrined a gospel of individual freedom.

"Whether or not you are religious, whether you are a Christian, it is still part of the English language and it is where the English language has come down to us. The very words that we say, the kind of phrases that we use, those things are absolutely jumping off the page of this Bible."

Sorting through the thousands of pictures that he took on this assignment, Richardson says a good picture is all about light and timing.

"I always say, if you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff. And it works."

His pictures tell stories, from the Rastafarians of Jamaica chanting with the King James Bible or Bob Marley's room in Jamaica where many of his Lyrics were taken from that Bible.

Each picture, powerful in its own way, help readers understand the context of the story. The pictures, portraying King James England in way that give us perspective on a Bible, seem to have been around forever.

"That's my dream as a photographer, to actually teach people, to tell them something, to share something and to make lives richer. If I can do that during the Christmas season, then that is a good thing."

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