Dr. Gabriel Tait fell in love with photography as a sixth-grade student at Allegheny Middle School in Pittsburgh.
He was invited to an after-school program as an effort to guide inner city youth to the arts. Tait said it was a life-changing moment.
Sure, Tait enjoyed the intellectual pursuit of mastering an immensely technical craft. But there was more to it than that. He saw how a camera’s viewfinder could serve as a window into someone’s soul. The experience, he said, helped his worldview and gave him a better understanding of humanity.
“I was now seeing—metaphorically—through other people’s eyes.”
The professor’s basic message to his students is this: It takes heart to be a great journalist.
I have the privilege to teach, I want our students to leave this University understanding humanity better and caring about their neighbor.
Tait is an assistant professor of diversity and media in the Department of Journalism in the College of Communication, Information, and Media. He teaches students how to fairly and accurately represent cultural identities, especially those that aren’t their own.
Tait holds a doctoral degree in intercultural studies with an emphasis in visual anthropology and leadership, as well as a master’s in intercultural studies with an emphasis in visual communication, both from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. He earned a bachelor’s in communication, with an emphasis in photojournalism, from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.
Tait has created a new research approach to culturally sensitive photography that he calls “Sight Beyond My Sight” (SBMS) and has employed it in Liberia and in cities throughout the United States. With SBMS, a researcher trains participants in photography, then analyzes ethnographic photographs they create of the community to learn about their cultural language as well as experiences that have helped shaped their identity and worldview. His method is used in photojournalism research, mission studies, and visual anthropology.
As a researcher, he has published articles and book chapters covering subjects such as visual communication, journalism ethics, and intercultural missions work. His work has been featured in “Visual Communication Quarterly,” “Newspaper Research Journal,” “On Knowing Humanity (OKH) Journal,” and “The Encyclopedia of Christianity.” In 2019, he published and contributed to the co-edited volume “Narratives of Storytelling Across Cultures: The Complexities of Intercultural Communication” with Tony DeMars.
Tait’s research is valuable for any professional who carries a camera into a cross-cultural experience.
Before joining academia, Tait spent 25 years as a photojournalist and war correspondent. He worked for large newspapers in Scotland; Charleston, South Carolina; Detroit; St. Louis; and Lexington, Kentucky.
Tait has photographed presidential inaugurations and the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup. But it’s his work documenting the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances—war refugees, ragtag soldiers, and grieving parents in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia —that earned him a Pulitzer nomination.
Tait’s empathetic eye is obvious in his professional portfolio. Image after image pulls at your emotions and forces you to see the humanity in people who look different from you.