Lutheran Church of the Reformation, Washington, D.C.
Photojournalist for Reuters 

I believe Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he said the arc of history bends toward justice. I feel continually lucky to be able to participate in that process through the work that I and other journalists are charged with doing.

Working as a Washington, D.C.-based photographer is both a great challenge and a huge privilege. We’re lucky enough to have news events here every day that are meaningful to the lives of people around the country and the world, which keeps us pretty busy. Having a front-row seat to history and covering high-profile assignments like trips on Air Force One can be exciting, but I take my responsibility to report the news with fairness and accuracy very seriously. 

Having a father who is a Lutheran pastor is something I wouldn’t trade for the world. I’ve always said that people would have a much different sense of their clergy if they saw them in their bathrobe every morning before breakfast. My father (Matt Ernst) is just as smart, funny and caring at home as he is once he puts on his collar and goes out the door. He’s not only good at being a pastor but also deeply enjoys it. My mother Karen Ernst’s father and brother (Paul and Stephen Gerhard) were also pastors, and my mother herself has lived a life of service to others. Growing up, I always felt like our congregations were wonderful extended families, thanks in large part to my father’s gifts for the ministry and my mother’s boundless heart.

The most exciting assignments I’ve covered as a photographer are presidential election campaigns—from the primaries through election night. The storylines can change every day, the candidates are winging their way around the country, and you’re hanging on for a fairly wild ride sometimes. But on more intimate stories, there is a very different kind of excitement—a deep and meaningful connection you can make with everyday people who let you tell their stories, and the magical, unexpected moments that happen when no one else is looking.

I hope my photos help inform, educate, move and connect people.  

My favorite Bible story is of Jesus healing the lepers. I’ve always lived my life in abject fear that I would be one of the ones who never came back to say thank you. 

My work with relief and development organizations was truly gratifying. My wife (Emily Sollie) works for Lutheran World Relief, and I was very happy going into the field for them when I was a free­lancer to help tell the stories of their important work in places such as Haiti, Kenya and Tanzania. I considered it a privilege to have the opportunity to help show the dignity and humanity of a small fraction of the billions of people around the world living in poverty. Those assignments enabled me to give my time and talents in a way I could never accomplish on my own, thanks to the wonderful people who are on the ground providing the help and doing the work.


My favorite Bible story is of Jesus healing the lepers. I’ve always lived my life in abject fear that I would be one of the ones who never came back to say thank you.


I can connect my faith to my work in many ways, but primarily I feel fortunate that my work is an extension of my faith in that it’s about caring about people and creating a sense of community. 

My favorite prayer is simply to sit quietly and remember my grandparents, parents, extended family, friends and others by simply picturing their faces. It never occurred to me before now, but I guess I do so by imagining them in my favorite photographs of them. It’s an attempt to never let them fade from my memory.  

My favorite church memory is … well, my wedding comes to mind! But aside from that, some of my favorite church memories from childhood are from Holy Week. My father has a great sense of the drama of Holy Week and how those stories can feel personal, new and meaningful every year. When the church would go black at noon on Good Friday, he would re-create the thunderclap. And even though I knew it was coming, I was excited to have it scare me all over again every year. 

Attending Lenoir-Rhyne College (Hickory, N.C.) was the perfect fit for me, and I have two friends I keep in close touch with from L-R. One was my best friend and roommate, and we really grew up a lot together during those years. The other was one of my favorite professors, Dr. Marion Love, who has been a lifelong mentor. I’ve always considered her sort of a generation-older, female version of myself—though she’s much more thoughtful and accomplished than I’d ever hope to be—and I’ve enjoyed her friendship and guidance all these years, well past my college days. 

A cause I’m fighting for is related to the adage that it’s the job of the journalist to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I hope that in some small way my work does that. 

People are surprised that I’m as close with my competitors here in Washington as I am with my co-workers. We’re really lucky that the community of photojournalists here is a great group of very smart men and women with great senses of humor. We might spend our days trying to beat each other to the story, but we also form wonderful friendships and have a lot of fun spending time together. 

I’m a Lutheran by birth but also by choice. This is most certainly true.   


Sentence prompts are provided to each person featured. If you’d like to nominate someone for “I’m a Lutheran,” email megan.brandsrud@elca.org.

Megan Brandsrud
Brandsrud is an associate editor of Living Lutheran.

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