New Visions of God's Poor

By Don Patterson

     John Holbrook prowls the streets, food kitchens, and missions of Fort Worth and other communities. He isn’t sure of what he is looking for, but patiently goes about the task in what he believes is his call to serve the Lord. He carries a small notebook and a camera to capture what he hopes will be stories and images that will inspire others. Holbrook uses his skills as a photographic artist to paint film portraits of the poor, the disadvantaged, the homeless, and the mentally or physically challenged. He portrays his subjects as saints and patriarchs, giving them names taken from scripture. He befriends and comforts them, then asks if he might photograph them. Afterward, he gives them the gift of a photograph revealing their personal beauty as God’s children. Holbrook hopes that his small gift will bring some happiness and light into the often-darkened worlds of his subjects. He hopes also, that by sharing his photographs with others, he will help open everyone’s eyes to the plight of the poor and forsaken.

Humble Beginnings


Photo below © John Holbrook - Used with permission

Photo by John Holbrook      John Holbrook’s unique ministry began inauspiciously. Born in San Angelo, Texas, Holbrook attended Stephen F. Austin College in Nacogdoches, where he earned a BA in Communications and a BS in Criminal Justice. “One of my minors was in photography, which in part, eventually led me to my career and my ministry,” Holbrook reported. “After graduating, I found work as an investigator for a collection agency. That experience, along with my college background finally led me to a career as a private investigator (PI). I settled in Fort Worth where I obtained a PI license and used my photographic skills in surveillance work. I later specialized in industrial investigation that didn’t require surveillance photography,” Holbrook said.

      Holbrook’s state-of-the-art photographic equipment wasn’t abandoned. “My wife and I took a trip to New York City where I captured some black & white photographs,” Holbrook said. “I enjoyed photographing the landmarks and the people. It reminded me of the days I was in college where I studied photography. After our trip, photography became an intriguing hobby. One day I photographed an emotionally ill woman named Agnes who lives near St. Andrew’s where I attend church. She would sometimes forget to take her medication and become unstable. Neighborhood residents uncharitably called her Agnes of God or Crazy Agnes because of her rambling. I found a dynamic kind of beauty radiating from her so asked to take her picture. She agreed and that experience perhaps triggered my calling to befriend and photograph the unfortunate, and to help others see what I’ve seen” Holbrook said.

A Passion for Portraits


     Holbrook’s first venture became the catalyst for what he believes is his ministry - - to capture on film, what he calls a saintly spiritual beauty found in the faces of his subjects. He began displaying his photos in art exhibits and competitions, including the New York City, Jesus 2000 Exhibit that is traveling to other major cities across the country and later to Europe. Holbrook’s images from the exhibit were published and circulated in over sixty-nine countries. He was interviewed twice on CNN and a video segment illustrating his work was seen on national television. Yet Holbrook doesn’t aspire to fame and fortune. He believes that God requisitioned his surveillance camera equipment. “My art is a spiritual endeavor,” he explained. “I can take no credit for its beauty. The credit belongs to God.”

New Horizons


     Holbrook gains no monetary reward from his work. “My fulfillment is recognizing that the subjects of my photographs are filled with God’s grace. Although they may be destitute, they are not spiritually bankrupt. I hope that those who view my work will discover that truth and be inspired to undertake a mission of their own,” Holbrook said.

Seeing More Clearly


     John Holbrook prays that his offering of time and talent might help everyone better recognize the poor and helpless to whom Christ asks us to minister. He hopes that by sharing his portraits our vision might improve and that we too might see the world’s poor in a new light. He hopes that through his mission we might answer our own call to become more personally involved and give greater comfort to the needy.

     Someone once said that if we cannot see Christ in the face of everyone we meet, we cannot see Christ. John Holbrook’s work urges us to take our blinders off and experience the vision reflected in Jesus words to his disciples when he said, “Come and see”.

About the author - - Don Patterson is a widely published Fort Worth based freelance writer. His inspirational articles have appeared in numerous publications including Boston Catholic, Caritas, Catholic Digest, Liguorian, Our Family, Our Sunday Visitor, Parish Family Digest, and Mature Catholic.

John Holbrook's web site is at

© Don Patterson - Used with permission.