Of Interest 6.1.11: Brandon Tauszik, Harold Camping and Judgment Day

© Brandon Tauszik. Previously unreleased image taken May 29, 2011 of Harold Camping's followers

Brandon Tauszik (b 1986, Chicago) is the only documentary photographer to have covered Harold Camping, the president of California-based Family Radio behind the May 21st Judgment Day prediction, in the days before and after the failed prediction. His photographs on the story have run in many major publications, including on npr.org. Tauszik's photo essay on Camping entitled "Pray for Mercy" can be found on Tauszik's website here.

Tauszik talked briefly with fototazo about working on the project.

fototazo: How'd you make the connection with Camping and his followers? What were your experiences? Insights?

Brandon Tauszik: Like most people, I saw the billboards earlier this year and my jaw dropped. Once I discovered the organization was based here in Oakland, I knew I had to cover them. I simply showed up one Sunday for a service where Camping was speaking and began to shoot. People didn’t seem to mind much and I was accepted for the most part.

The people I met while doing this story were oddly normal. There were a couple eccentrics in the congregation, but most were quiet, nice Christian people. There was a Sunday school for the kids downstairs and a potluck after the service every Sunday. However, it should be noted that Harold Camping does not consider his congregation a "church" as he believes all churches died spiritually in 1988. It's little things like this (and the ardent belief that he and his followers would be raptured last week) which separate Camping and Family Radio from the rest of the evangelical community. It's interesting to note that the majority of doctrine taught by Camping is pretty spot on with contemporary Reformed/Baptist theology.

I learned a lot about a lot while shooting this story. I used a 28mm prime lens on a crop sensor camera for the whole project which made me be very intentional and up-close with my subjects. I didn't realize it was going to be such a newsworthy subject when I began shooting, but interest sure picked up as the 21st approached. I learned a lot about how to distribute images and also how apparently scant photo budgets are at publications.

f: Will you continue following them now, until October [the month of Camping's new Judgment Day prediction] or beyond?

BT: Camping has explained away his enduring existence and things have more or less returned to normal at Family Radio. I have photographed them on three occasions since May 21st and will continue to try and follow up with a few individuals. But as far as the story as a whole, I think I'm done. There are some other stories I want to work on now.