I read about Christian Quiverfull-minded folks who closely follow and live by Christian scripture and biblical verses and decided to try to find one of these families to document. I begged my way into a Quiverfull forum on the web and was met there with much skepticism about letting me in. One family in Kansas said maybe and another back east said I could come by. But neither were enthused and I knew the travel budget was too tight for a trip that distant and long.
Then I found the Jeub family, only a 90 minute drive away from my home in Colorado. They too were tentative at first but let me in after seeing stories I had done recently in their area. My work documenting the headquarters of the "Focus on the Family" organization, portraying troops returning from Iraq at a nearby military base and covering "The Purity Ball", a Christian father-daughter event all convinced them of my fairness and the integrity of my photojournalism. They said they prayed on it hard and were led to let me into their home to tell their story through pictures and sound.
Quiverfull, like any other belief system or philosophy, takes different forms. Believers generally view children as a gift from God and avoid all forms of birth control. To many, including the Jeubs, the movement means trusting God entirely to decide your family size by surrendering your life to God.
The Jeubs say that goes for their reproductive life too. "Wendy and I believe God wants us to trust Him in our family planning. The results are his to deal out. We're more than fine by that. We are amazed (italics theirs) at how incredible the blessings have been.....We have 15 children, but why would we say that #16 wasn't a blessing? Or #17? Or #18?"
Once I met the Jeubs it was really just about being a fly on the wall witnessing what goes on normally in their lives and their home. Chris told the attendees during a church service held in their home that one of the best things about a photographer is that they are invisible. He then proceeded to introduce me.
Producing the video after the fact took almost as much time as shooting the pictures and video did. I think it is worth it though because the power of the images is just enhanced with motion, music and narration by the people involved. This old dog just decided to learn some new tricks and record audio and embrace video technology in addition to shooting still photos late last year. I've been working for Reuters for almost 25 years but this is my first video project.
For photographers the saying used to be that you can't go wrong with kids or dogs. The Jeubs had recently lost the family dog but kids they had in abundance. Thirteen kids are living at home; six are under the age of 6, there's a set of twins, a 4 month old baby and a 17-year-old celebrating her birthday. We in the business say this is a "target-rich environment" for making photos. Everywhere you looked there was something happening. The trick was to pick and choose the moments to focus on, the same as with any other story. It's the little fleeting moments that make the best pictures, every time. Seeing them when others don't and then capturing them in a creative way is the secret to success as a documentary photographer.
Thanks to the Jeub family: Zechariah, Priscilla, Havilah, Joshua, Josiah, Hannah, Keilah, Tabitha, Noah, Micah, Isaiah, Lydia, Cynthia, father Chris and mother Wendy for letting me into their life briefly and ignoring me as much as possible while I was there!
Here's my favorite still image from the 50 some pictures that went into the video project and the two long days I spent with the Jeub family. The action of three-year-old Havilah seemingly floating around on the trampoline, the light, the way her dress twirled up - all combine to tell a story. If only her sister hadn't appeared dressed in red in the background of the picture it would have been perfect. I guess you just can't have it all!
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