Choosing Chaltu

By Jane Sutton-Redner

Winter09.CoverThis is it! Out of many great options by Jon Warren, the photo of this adorable Ethiopian girl with the shy smile, 7-year-old Chaltu Dechasa, is our final choice.

Thanks to those of you who expressed opinions here and through Facebook, this was a fun process. I loved reading your reactions to the children’s beautiful faces.

I was blown away by one of the first comments, by Todd Pottinger, who found our cover girl “extraordinarily compelling,” for these reasons: “The light of the child’s face emerges from the darkness of her circumstances, the wisdom in her eyes, her faith in the viewer to do the right thing, and a bit of mirth, even. In any other context, this would be a simply beautiful portrait, but here, there is a quiet power, an imperative that speaks beyond words, an understanding and a grace. She holds both the question and the answer.”

Wow!

Hard to follow Todd’s words with a much more mundane explanation for the final choice, but here goes. We narrowed it down to the two girls’ photos (dropping out the boy’s photo only because it had been used in other World Vision pieces already and we didn’t want to risk overexposure), and then we started playing around with cover titles. That’s the key to a good cover—the right combination of image and words.

For this issue, we wanted to call out Max Lucado’s amazing excerpt and connect the Ethiopian girl to Max’s trip. Eventually we landed on “In Ethiopia, Max Lucado Encounters Miracles in the Making.” (Yeah, we like alliteration.) Chaltu’s expression in the photo fit those words—as did her story. Chaltu’s mother, Bontu, is a widow struggling to raise her children alone. But help is coming through World Vision and Chaltu’s sponsors.

Secondary reasons for choosing Chaltu: We liked that she was wearing red (a nod to this issue being live at Christmas), and that little glimmer of light to the right also added something (thanks, Jon!).

Winter09.page14

An alternate cover choice is on page 14 of the magazine. (All photos by Jon Warren/WV)

Because so many people loved the other cover option, the girl with the big smile, I was nearly swayed—I agree that her joy was irresistible. But as it turned out, we already had a place for her in the magazine. Early on our designers had selected her photo for page 14, a quartet of “slice of Ethiopian life” images, and her green shirt added the right color. So there was a home for this photo, but there wasn’t for little Chaltu.

Put all those reasons together, along with insightful comments by Todd and others, and we felt we were choosing a winner.

Thanks again to all of you who weighed in! And stay tuned … another issue’s in the works, and you better believe I’ll ask for opinions again!

Related post: Too many choices (Sept. 21, 2009)

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