A New Beginning
It’s difficult for me to put into words the purpose I desire for my photography – the desire I believe God has put in me. There is an obvious connection between viewing the complex beauty of the natural world and gaining understanding or appreciation for its Creator, but I’m reaching for something more than that. Perhaps I want more because other photographers who produce brilliant artwork have proven that it’s likely, in the culture of our day, that a person with a perceptive eye may have their spirit stirred by the same landscape that stirs mine while rejecting the God that I know.
Putting into practice this kind of photography is far greater a challenge than simply being able to describe the goal. The presentation is a threshold that can only be crossed after the images have been made. I’m faced with the question of whether or not I’m even capable of such a product – photographs that work to illuminate God’s character or illustrate biblical redemption. I’m certainly not beyond questioning whether I’m reaching a bit too far or whether I’ve assumed myself ready for a task for which I am not yet equipped.
One way or another, I feel myself led toward something – some kind of change from the focus my photography has had in the past. Believing God has called us to be transformed in every facet of our lives, I want to be a different artist than I would be without the saving grace of Jesus. The differentness is not an end to itself, but rather a means by which to bring Him glory. To be meaningful, real, and hopefully noticeable; the change has got to be focused at the center of what an artist is all about.
Throughout the ranks of photographic artists (and probably other artists as well) you’ll hear the discussion of developing one’s personal vision. The idea is for the individual to express, ever more clearly, the perceptions that are unique to them as a result of their experiences, longings, and nature. The photographer is supposed to recognize and nurture his or her “own way of seeing” in the same way humankind has always tended to encourage being “true to yourself”. No doubt, my visual interpretation of the world (even my predisposition to nature photography as a genre) has been shaped and molded in a unique way by a variety of factors, and I assumed there was some good being done by my attempts to share with others the way I see what I see.
But what about the way I’m supposed to see? Using the word “supposed” probably elicits all types of red flags for artists who feel strongly that there is nothing more detrimental (even deadly) to creative acts than externally imposed restrictions. The reason I feel differently is that I have experienced the liberation that God’s guidance and even boundaries have brought into other areas of my life. I also know that God does not use a uniform mold to force me into some other person’s shape. Instead, He alone (as my Maker) knows that for which I was designed – recalibrating my focus from time to time in order to blur distractions, the chief of which is the misperception that my artwork should be primarily about me.
Truthfully, the reason I don’t know how God will direct my vision is that I haven’t been in the practice of asking. The combination of the way creative outlets are caught up in the concept of self-expression and my own tendency to look no further than myself for answers made this omission all too easy. As I now work to bring my purpose in line with God’s purpose, it may be that the most I can hope to share is a personal progression of knowing Him more – through as much narrative as photographic imagery. On the other hand, God may choose to work through me in ways I haven’t even the capacity to imagine.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20
“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” – Psalm 19:1