Category Archives: Religious photojournalism

Information about religious photojournalism, particularly in the Catholic press

Blogging etiquette: A lesson in posting photos without credit

I recently came across a blogging website mentioned by a friend on Facebook. I decided to check out the blogger’s entry to read the post about Cardinal Timothy Dolan. To my surprise, below the headline was a photo of the cardinal when he was archbishop of Milwaukee — a photo I had taken in 2006.

My first reaction was to check for a photo credit or a link to my website. No such luck. All that was written in the caption: “My favorite photo of Cardinal Dolan.”

Archbishop Timothy Dolan embraces a newly ordained permanent deacon following his ordination at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Milwaukee. (Sam Lucero photo)

Archbishop Timothy Dolan embraces a newly ordained permanent deacon following his ordination at St. John the Evangelist Cathedral in Milwaukee. (Sam Lucero photo)

Because of the nature of my photography work, I do not seek to threaten bloggers or other online posters with legal action for using my photos without permission. Most of the time, the violators of my photo ownership rights are well-meaning people who are living out their faith and sharing their journey via a religious blog. That was the case with Anne Bender, author of “Imprisoned in my Bones” blog.

I chose to leave Anne a comment on her blog:

“One suggestion: You should credit the photographers whose photos you use in your blog — and maybe a link to his/her website.”

Within a few hours, Bender posted a reply, asking if it was my photo. A conversation ensued. She then sent me an email apologizing for not crediting my photo.

“Dear Sam, I am terribly sorry that I failed to credit you for the photo of Cardinal Dolan that I used on my blog. When I first found that picture (on another blog), I absolutely fell in love with it, but I never gave a thought to giving you credit. I was completely in the wrong,” she wrote. “You have every right to go after me for violation of copyright laws, and yet, you simply left a gentle reminder in a comment box. … God bless you for your kindness and thank you for your beautiful work.”

I posted a second comment to her blog the next day with some advice to Bender:

“I see you’ve added a photo credit. Thanks. It’s something that happens all of the time on blogs. Some photographers would object (rightly so) when their work is used online without credit or reimbursement. We’re both in the business of faith so I’m OK with you using my image. Just remember that photographers, unlike bloggers (I do both), put a lot of money into their craft through equipment. I work with a lot of photographers and writers so I like to speak up for the freelancers. Glad you liked the photo.”

It wasn’t the first time I’ve left a comment on a website about one of my photos appearing there without permission, but Anne’s response was the most sincere. Our correspondence also became the subject of a later post on Anne’s blog. You can read it here.


Living Stations of the Cross

St. Bernard School’s eighth grade hosted a Living Stations of the Cross on Holy Thursday, March 28. Here is a photo slideshow from the event.

Panoramic view of Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel

I used my iPhone 4 and AutoStitch app to create this panoramic view of the chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe inside of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., last March. If you’re in the nation’s capital and have never been to the basilica, located on The Catholic University of America campus, make a point to stop in for a visit and even attend Mass. It is worth the visit.

The chapel walls are inscribed with the words, “Who is she who comes forth like the rising dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, like the rainbow gleaming amid luminous clouds, like the bloom of roses in the spring?” The altar inside the chapel depicts the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The walls are mosaic and on both sides show pilgrims coming to venerate her.

I stitched about seven or eight images to create the photo, which is about a 19 MB file. Click on the image to view a larger size.

A panoramic view of the chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Basiclica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Click on photo to view large image.

Late night at Holy Resurrection Monastery

The Easter Vigil is traditionally an extended religious service in the Catholic Church. Roman Catholics are accustomed to spending two hours, often longer, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The liturgy includes additional Scripture readings, along with the sacraments of initiation for new church members.

For Catholics of the western rite persuasion, who shudder at the thought of extended time in church on Holy Saturday, your Eastern rite neighbors, who trace their roots to Constantinople rather than Rome, have news for your: two hours are nothing.

I had the privilege of attending the April 14 celebration of Great and Holy Saturday, also known as the Paschal Vigil, at Holy Resurrection Monastery in St. Nazianz, Wis., about 50 miles south of Green Bay. The Byzantine monastery relocated to Wisconsin last fall from California. The small community of monks, led by their Abbot, Nicholas Zachariadis, has opened its doors to their Roman Catholic neighbors. Indeed, nearly half of those in attendance were Roman Catholics.

The Easter celebration began at 11 p.m. in the monastery’s modest chapel with Nocturns, a recitation of prayers, followed by an outdoor candlelight procession, Matins of Holy Pascha and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The service, highlighted by chanting and sung prayers, lasted about three hours. A 2 a.m. breakfast followed the Divine Liturgy.

After sharing in a festive meal, bidding farewell to the monks of Holy Resurrection and making the one-hour drive back to Green Bay, it was 4 a.m. Now that’s what I call a vigil.

Below is a photo slideshow of images from the Paschal Vigil.

Ash Wednesday

I spent my morning Feb. 22  photographing an Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Agnes Church in Green Bay. Attending the morning Mass were students from Holy Family School, which is supported by St. Agnes and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parishes.

In addition to shooting photos, I recorded audio and decided to put together an audio slideshow using Soundslides. The software has an option to convert the flash-based slideshow into an mp4 video, which I did and then uploaded it to my YouTube channel.

Below is the video from Ash Wednesday.


Two archbishops who teamed up to help military family now cardinals

Funny how things work out. Two  U.S. prelates were among 22 Catholic Church leaders worldwide to receive the cardinal’s red hat during a Feb. 18 consistory led by Pope Benedict XVI. The two include Cardinals Timothy M. Dolan and Edwin F. O’Brien.

Both men have known each other for years, as they’ve attended bishops’ meetings in Washington, D.C., and were both rectors of the North American College in Rome. But who would have guessed back in 2003 that these men would represent the United States at the cardinal’s consistory in 2012? The thought never crossed my mind while in the presence of then-Milwaukee Archbishop Dolan in July 2003.

We were in Brookfield, Wis., where I was reporting on and photographing a special visit the archbishop made to the home of Mary Kay Kulla. Kulla’s husband, Scott, an Army lieutenant, was stationed in Iraq and Mary Kay had just given birth to the couple’s fourth child nine days earlier.

There in the Kulla living room, Archbishop Dolan sat on the sofa holding 9-day-old Blaise Augustine Kulla, in his left arm while conversing with Kulla and her three other children, 11-year-old Celeste, 6-year-old Gabriel, and 2-year-old Genevieve.

“Since the war broke out I’ve been praying for military families,” Archbishop Dolan told me. “I found out about (Mary Kay’s) story and I took a liking to her.”

During his visit, the archbishop offered a special blessing for Blaise, who weighed 6 pounds, 15 ounces at birth. He also made a phone call to a fellow archbishop, Edwin F. O’Brien, who was head of the U.S. Archdiocese for the Military Services. He wanted Archbishop O’Brien to keep in touch with Kulla and her family while Scott was overseas.

So the two archbishops who teamed up to help a military family in 2003 are now teaming up to be part of Pope Benedict’s College of Cardinals. Yes, it’s funny how things work out.

In 2003, then-Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan cradled 9-day-old Blaise Augustine Kulla during a visit to the Kulla home in Brookfield, Wis. (Photo by Sam Lucero)

Where would Jesus be born? A self storage unit perhaps?

Nativity scene taken with iPhone4, edited in Instagram. (Sam Lucero photo)


Note: This blog entry originally appeared as an editorial in The Compass, newspaper of the Diocese of Green Bay, where I work as News & Information Manager.


If Joseph and Mary were alive today, looking for a place where Mary could give birth to Jesus, where could they find solace? After some online and empirical research, I’ve concluded that it would not be in a stable filled with animals. No, today it would probably be in a storage unit.

This theory first came to me while driving to work recently. I noticed construction workers pouring concrete in a lot next to an already existing storage unit facility. Apparently the units were all filled and more were needed. On my five-mile drive to work, at least four storage unit facilities exist. Two of them are “climate controlled” and one is heated.

No swaddling clothes needed to stay warm here.

I confess to knowing something about storage units. Before moving to Green Bay in 2008, I rented one to store goods while waiting to buy a new home here.

According to the Self Storage Association (yes, there is such a thing), the self storage industry has been one of the fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. commercial real estate industry in the last 35 years. There are approximately 46,000 primary self storage facilities in the United States with rentable space that totals 2.22 billion square feet.

That’s a lot of space for wise men, kings and barn animals.

Nearly one in 10 U.S. households currently rents a self storage unit, reports the Self Storage Association, which is up from one in 17 in 1995. It’s a profitable business as well, with the industry grossing $22 billion in 2009.

What do these statistics tell us? I believe they indicate that we Americans are controlled by our possessions. Rental units are no longer used simply to store furniture while a family relocates. Today they serve as long-term rentals to store goods. We own so much that we have to rent storage space to hold all of our stuff that doesn’t fit into closets, attics and garages.

Not all Americans rent storage units. Not the estimated 2 million to 3 million who are homeless every year, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Most of these Americans cannot even afford to rent an apartment. Fortunately, churches and communities team up to provide shelters for the homeless, especially during the winter months.

Isn’t something wrong in our country when there is such a disparity between the haves and the have-nots? When an estimated seven square feet of storage space exists for every man, woman and child in this country, yet homeless shelters struggle to find enough space to accommodate people living on the streets?

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the modern-day Joseph and Mary wouldn’t take shelter in a storage unit after all. Storage units have locks to protect all of the worldly possessions inside. Jesus, the Son of God, was born to give hope to the hopeless, to unlock the hardened hearts that bind us to our possessions and blind us to the suffering of others.

Given the choice between a heated storage unit and a crowded homeless shelter, Mary and Joseph would choose the latter. For while the cries of the poor are heard here, so too are the voices of justice that give shelter and comfort. Isn’t their example why the Son of God was born among us?


Below is a gallery of stained-glass images I’ve taken over the years that relate to the Nativity.

The helping hand

Every now and then, while I’m out on a photo assignment, I find myself the recipient of a volunteer photo assistant. It’s usually someone connected to the event at which I’m photographing; someone just trying to help me out.

The latest incident of the unannounced and unwanted photo assistant took place on the feast of the Assumption while photographing a Mass and rosary procession at the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wis. For those unfamiliar with the shrine, it received international attention last December when Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay issued a declaration proclaiming that appearances (called apparitions) by Mary, the mother of Jesus, in 1859 were found to be valid and therefore worthy of belief by the faithful.

This Mass and rosary procession, an annual event since the 1860s, attracted about 3,000 people — double the crowd at last year’s Assumption celebration.

At the conclusion of the rosary procession around the five-acre shrine grounds, I spotted a young boy near the entrance of the shrine’s chapel. He was checking out a group of nicely dressed gentlemen whom we know as the fourth degree Knights of Columbus. The KCs were entering the chapel to change into their civvies. Shooting with a 16-35 mm Nikon zoom lens, I took a series of photos from behind the boy.

I settled into my spot at the top of the steps, just a few feet from the youngster. I knew that Bishop Ricken would soon file past us. This could be the photo of the day, I thought.

But my “assistant” made sure that the photo I imagined in my mind would never make it to my camera — or to Catholic newspapers and magazines across the country. My photo assistant had no idea that the boy was a focal point of the picture. She thought he was blocking my view, so in an instant, from the corner of my eye, I saw a hand grab the boy and move him out of the way. “No, no, no,” I said. “Oh, I thought he was in your way,” assistant said.

Assistant then told me she would grab the young photo prop and put him back. No, I said. I didn’t elaborate how staging photos isn’t a good journalistic practice. Instead, I was thankful just to get a few images of the boy and the Knights.

I need to hire a photo assistant who can be on the lookout for unwanted photo assistants. Here are three photos in a series from the day.

Young boy checks out fourth degree Knights honor guard as they enter the shrine chapel. (Sam Lucero photo)

Procession of fourth degree Knights is just about finished. Bishop Ricken should be next. (Sam Lucero photo)

The hand of my photo "assistant" reaches out to grab the little boy, who she thinks is in my way. Darn it! (Sam Lucero photo)

Meet the man who photographs the pope

I had an opportunity in early May to visit with Paul Haring, staff photographer for Catholic News Service who is based in Rome. Haring has been shooting images at the Vatican since 2009 and his photos are used by Catholic print and electronic publications around the world.

Before moving to Rome, Paul worked five years for CNS in Washington, D.C., where he edited and captioned photos used by the wire service. “The bulk of the editing I did was photos of the pope and the Vatican,” he told me over a bottle of Peroni in the lounge of the Hotel Cicerone, about a 15-minute walk from the Vatican.


Paul Haring photographs in St. Peter's Square during a rare snowfall Feb. 12, 2010. (Photo by Giovanni Lin)

While editing photos from the Vatican, Haring said he realized he could be taking the photos.

“The opportunity came along in 2005,” he said. “CNS wanted to create a staff position. … I volunteered myself for it and in August 2009 my wife and I came over here and we began this grand adventure in Rome.”

Haring says his schedule is based on events at the Vatican.

“I adhere to the schedule of the Vatican, following the activities of the pope. He has two regular events every week — the Wednesday general audience and the Sunday Angelus,” he said. “I photograph both those events and other events the pope has and many other Catholic events throughout the city.”

Haring also does a lot of international photo editing. “I work with L’Osservatore Romano and another agency, Catholic Press Photo. I try to get some of that editing done and some of my own pictures.”

Many of Paul’s images of Pope Benedict are shot with long glass. Most of the close-up shots of the pope are taken by Vatican photographers. Haring said he is within close distance to the pope only on rare occasions.

“I consider it a very privileged opportunity to be close to the pope … maybe less than 10 times a year,” he said. “For the most part we work with long lenses and we try to do the best that we can in that way.”

Asked if he had a favorite image he’s shot, Haring described a photo taken in 2010.

“Every photographer wants to get a good picture of the pope kissing a baby or something like that,” he said. “There was one moment in the basilica where the pope spontaneously went over to a baby. Sometimes the children are brought to him by ushers, but this was completely spontaneous. He was processing out and the baby gave him this angelic look and I got the moment.

“It was very rewarding because it’s very hard to get” engaging photos of the pope, noted Haring. “We have to compete, in a sense, with other photographers who are closer and are trying to get that moment as well. That was a special picture for me.”

Check out the audio slide show I put together for The Compass, which features numerous photos shot by Haring in Italy — including that angelic baby.

Ordination season

May and June are traditionally months set aside for celebrating ordinations in the Catholic Church. In the Diocese of Green Bay, six men were ordained to the diaconate by Bishop David Ricken on May 21. Four of the men, who are married, are permanent deacons. The other two are transitional deacons who will be ordained to the priesthood next year. Next month, Bishop Ricken will ordain two men to the priesthood.

Poor lighting and lack of close proximity to the sanctuary make ordinations — as well as any service — at the Green Bay cathedral a challenge. I usually focus on interesting shots that happen before and after the liturgy, as well as scenes in the pews. Below is a slide show of photos I put together from the May 21 ordination.