A Photographic Essay

Editor’s Introduction: Sometimes, words do not suffice—and yet, during a week marked by horrific bombings in Paris and Beirut and wrenching debates over welcoming refugees from Iraq and Syria to our shores, we have been bombarded by them. Words flowing out of the mouths of television analysts. Words marching across the pages of newspapers and newsmagazines. Words scrolling by on social media newsfeeds and timelines.

But even as words have overwhelmed us, they have failed to capture the full depth of the world’s anxiety, heartbreak, and despair.

Often, words do not suffice. 

Thus, as we head into Thanksgiving, Bearings blog turns away from words. Instead, we offer the following photo essay by John Hafford. Back in September, when we first approached John with the idea of crafting a visual blog post, he wholeheartedly embraced the project—especially when he learned that its theme would be “Gratitude.” Below, John presents sixteen hand-selected photographs, all of which express and embody the experience of gratitude for him.

As a way of introducing the collection, John writes:

I am at my core a visual artist. I have, for whatever reason, always been passionate about image making and celebrating line, texture, form, color and the rest of the little things that go into the big things. Embedded in my need to capture and create is profound respect and gratitude for the amazing world we live in. I don’t know why I’ve always tried to capture the beauty of this life, I just know I’ve always been thankful to be witness to it.

You will notice that the photos themselves lack titles and captions. John has purposefully withheld those pieces of information, in order to avoid pre-conditioning viewers to interpret the images through his lens. Given this clean slate, we hope that you will comment on the images, provide your own captions for them, and share your reactions to them. (When you click on an image, a larger version of it will open. A comment box will appear on the right. If it does not, or if you accidentally close the comment box, you can always find it again by going to the bottom of the image and clicking on the icon just to the right of the lower-case “i.”)

Amidst the grief of the last few weeks, there is still much to be grateful for. Thank you, John, for reminding us not only to appreciate the “beauty of this life” but also to express gratitude for being a “witness to it.”

Happy Thanksgiving.


John Hafford

John Hafford lives in Medway, Maine, with his wife Jessica and two young daughters.  John is the Principal/Creative Director for designlab, a graphic design and marketing firm. As a trained visual artist and life-long photographer, John is passionate about photography and its unique ability to capture and preserve the incredible world we live in. To learn more about John and designlab, please visit

Alyssa Lodewick

An authorized minister in the United Church of Christ, the Rev. Alyssa Lodewick earned Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work degrees from Boston University. Before Alyssa allowed herself to pursue a religious vocation, she spent the first part of her professional life working for a variety of nonprofit organizations and academic institutions, co-editing To Educate A Nation: Federal and National Strategies of School Reform along the way. Connect with her on Twitter @AlyssaLodewick.

Image credits:

The original photographs in this collection were taken by John Hafford. All rights reserved.