Esther Havens
2011/12/08
By : Jenn Ripley
Around the corner from Dominican Joe's Coffee on South Congress lives a girl who you would all be honored to know....

When we sat down for coffee, which I consumed and my new friend declined, I knew she had just arrived back in town from several expeditions abroad and I asked her to remind me where she had been. "I was in Ethiopia, Iraq and Uganda."

My jaw dropped to the table (barely missing my coffee). What?! This funky, dark-haired girl with beautiful eyes and a big, welcoming smile had been bravely traipsing around the world. So needless to say, I was automatically floored when I began talking with Esther Havens, humanitarian documentary photographer, and the rest of the interview was more of the same.

"Why was I so impressed?" you might ask. Well, the long and the short of it is that Esther, and photographers like her, use their aesthetic talent to impact lives around the globe. But Esther is different; she's more than that.

Perhaps, it is her upbringing that has made her the unique person she is today. Her father, a musician, and her mother, a Holland native, produced 6 children and always encouraged them to be creative and innovative. They were surrounded by art, not only through classical piano lessons, but also by the art that adorned their family home, painted by Esther's Great-Grandfather, a famous Dutch painter.

She has always loved photography. Giggling she told me, "I used to set up my brothers and sisters and take pictures of them with a 110 film camera. I would set up our cats with a background and take pictures of them when I was 10 years old. I just like pictures in general. I would even create portfolio books, albums, and say 'Look at my pictures that I take.'"

So art and creativity came naturally to Esther. But when she was first exposed to 3rd world conditions in India at the age of 18 with an organization called YWAM (Youth With A Mission), she began to think of her natural talent and love for photography as more than just a hobby. Her group worked with various charities in the area doing humanitarian aid work for two months. She remembered, "It was my first time to experience 3rd world conditions, other than Mexico, and I really got to be in a culture that I loved and I remember capturing incredible moments of the people."

Her time in India was a defining experience for Esther because she realized, "I wanted to become a photographer more than anything else at that point. I just felt it inside that this was what I was supposed to do."

Upon returning to the States, Esther began to seek a way into the world of photography. She attended the Southwestern Photojournalism Conference in Ft. Worth where Esther encountered, "photographers from National Geographic, Time magazine, the New York Times, and others. A few photographers and editors critiqued my portfolio and said, 'You've got some work to do,' and I said, 'but that's such a great picture!' They tore it apart," she told me with a smile.
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