Touching Lives Through the Lens


Linda SchaeferTouching Lives Through the Lens

Linda Schaefer began her career as a journalist in 1985. A former CNN editor and photojournalist, she has had her work published in Time, Newsweek, Parade magazine, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, to name just a few. After a life-changing meeting with Mother Teresa in 1995, Schaefer authored “Come and See: A Photojournalist’s Journey into the World of Mother Teresa,” a book chronicling the works of Mother Teresa and her order, the Missionaries of Charity.

Schaefer now spends much of her time on the speaking circuit, where she shares her experiences with Mother Teresa. Schaefer resides in Atlanta and is the mother of a 9-year-old son, Paul. Recently, she was the keynote speaker at the BooksAlive Festival at Gulf Coast Community College, where Emerald Coast Magazine’s Beth Gribas caught up with her.

EC: What have you learned from all of your travels and experiences?

LS: Everyone has his or her own calling, and so we have to be prepared to hear what that is. And the most important thing, and probably the most difficult to learn and to do, is to not judge others. That’s very important to do. We are called to be compassionate, not to judge.

EC: What do you consider the most important piece of advice you’ve ever received?

LS: That we are all children of God.

EC: What drew you to follow Mother Teresa and photograph her work?

LS: In 1995, the Catholic Archdiocese asked me to document Mother Teresa’s visit to Atlanta. I had all my equipment set up on the tarmac and was photographing her as she was getting off the plane. I had my eye to the camera and, through the lens, I saw her turn and look at me. The look was so intense, so spiritual, that I was taken aback for a moment. She had touched me through the lens of my camera. Later, I knew I had to write a book about her and the work she and her sisters were doing in India.

EC: Was it difficult to get access from Mother Theresa to do the photo shoot of her work?

LS: I arrived at her convent in Calcutta and was shown to a waiting area by the sisters of her order. I had my camera equipment sitting beside me, and I started thinking about the photo shoot and getting excited. Mother Theresa approached me, and I rose and asked if she would grant permission to photograph the great work that she and her sisters were doing. Expecting her to say yes, I was stunned when she gave a resounding “No!” Mother Teresa told me, “I don’t need photographers, I need volunteers. Go to work in the orphanage tomorrow.” She told me to work in the orphanages and the houses of the dying and that we would talk later about taking pictures. After proving myself through weeks of volunteering, I was at last awarded a hand-scribbled note that was my passport to taking the photographs. She granted me full access.

EC: What is the most important thing you learned from this legendary woman?

LS: What I learned from Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity is their love for the poor. It’s central to Catholicism. I was attracted by the focus on caring for the poor.

EC: What are your goals now?

LS: I am currently working on my second book, “The Journey to Compassion Through Mother Teresa.” Eventually I will teach, because I really feel like I am being led to teach.