Claire Hutchinson uses her camera as a catalyst for change
by Lisa Tramontana
If anyone has a global perspective on the world, it’s Claire Hutchinson. A professional photographer and filmmaker based in Baton Rouge, she has traveled extensively, taking stunning photos and creating films that galvanize people to make a difference in the world.
Hutchinson graduated from LSU with a degree in photography, then started her own business shooting weddings in Louisiana and throughout the South. But her passion went deeper than just creating a solid career for herself. A trip to Haiti in 2013 became the turning point in her life.
“It was during a trip to Port au Prince that God changed my heart,” she said. “I began to see photography and filmmaking as a way to create a desire in others to help, not just physically, but to share the only hope that transcends suffering — the hope we have in Jesus Christ.”
As a result, Hutchinson has worked on five continents for numerous organizations who spread love and compassion in the world — Mission to the World (Atlanta), Hand Up Global Goods (Haiti), Noonday Collection (Rwanda), and Hope Ministries (USA), among others. Just this year, she has visited 10 countries, including Cuba, Ireland, Canada and Germany.
Most of her work is done with Mission to the World as a filmmaker. In documentary style, she works alongside the missionaries in whatever the cultural context and challenges might be, and highlights what God is doing in those communities and how he is at work through suffering and through displays of redemption and mercy.
She recalls an Iraqi gentleman (in Germany) asking her why Americans have such a negative view of his culture. “It’s because they don’t know you personally and they don’t know your story,” she said. “All they see or hear about is numbers. Tell me your story and I will help them better understand. The gentleman then told me about his family’s flight and what they went through. With my camera, I could show his face, show his suffering. And you can hear his story in his own voice. Film is very powerful and captivating. It inserts the viewer into the culture of the person being filmed. It lets you understand the story at a deeper level.”
Her experiences abroad have affected her faith, of course. “I wouldn’t be human if I saw some of the things I’ve seen and didn’t wonder, ‘What kind of God is this that allows such suffering?’ but I keep coming back to the stories of God’s redemption in every single place I’ve been. For example, a boy in Haiti who lived in literally a hole in the ground with his mother and sister is now about to receive a home from donors who saw photos and heard his story.”
Her work has shaped her personality as well. “I’ve become more flexible, especially in day to day things. In the field, there is no predicting what comes up, so I have learned to be okay with having less control. I’m also motivated now to speak up in situations where I wouldn’t have before. I think there is a certain boldness that comes with seeing injustice and suffering, and wanting others to know it’s happening and care about it too.”
Hutchinson says she experiences a bit of culture shock each time she returns from her travels and gets back to her wedding photography. It is, after all, quite a contrast. And so, in keeping with her desire to spread hope, she donates 5 percent of every wedding fee to one of the groups she works with. In this way, every couple she photographs shares in her mission and touches the lives of others across the world — whether they intended to or not.
“I also love to share my photos and films with people here,” she said. “I like to visit churches and encourage and motivate others to do what they can … to ‘pray, to give, or to go’ – as I like to say. We are all called to do different things in different ways.”
For more information on Hutchinson’s work, or to request a visit with your church or organization, go to claireelyse.com. You can also call her at (225) 715-7229.