In recent weeks, I have ventured into the practice of contemplative photography. While it has been an interesting pursuit, I’ve sensed that there is something more, a deeper, more intimate experience to be had than to just sit for 10 minutes with a photo that I’ve already made and to intentionally reflect on what the imagery evokes.
I think I may indeed have crossed over and attained a new level of personal investment in photography.
Recently, I received a bit of criticism about my photography. It wasn’t rude or mean-spirited, but it hit me deeply. Of a sudden, I realized that there is something intensely personal linking me to my images, something that indicates this has gone far beyond a mere hobby or taking snapshots.
Photography for me is not to remember, not to share, but to experience. A humble walk in a local wooded area (seen here on my Flickr page) becomes significant to me when I venture in with camera in hand, when I observe, when I truly see, when I interact with my surroundings in ways that my predominantly passive personality would often shy away from. Being present and engaged has suddenly become possible for me through photographic tools.
My photography is for me…because I need it, currently, to encourage me into the places when my soul does not often go, but finds oh so life-giving.
Surely, I am not the first person who has braced up against the world and proclaimed that my pictures are for me alone. The fact that I have a Flickr photo page may be taken as evidence against this very statement.
But my goal is not to simply share a photo, to entertain, or even to impart beauty to others. The world is full of photographs–millions of which are more technically perfect, more creative, more inspiring, more beautiful than mine.
But the world is not full of my photographs.
My pictures do not stand on their own–they are a creation…of me. While some would argue that pictures should stand on their own, that they should communicate volumes of words (and communicate clearly! attractively! impactfully!), I have realized that this cannot be for me. My pictures do not exist in their fullness apart from their perpetual attachment to me. Uploading them to Flickr doesn’t separate them from their origin, from the heartbeat that created them.
It’s only recently that I’ve even begun to share photos online. With such a philosophy, why even bother to upload them? Because I have a faint hope that through them, I will be known.
If people find beauty, or joy, or inspiration…wonderful! But I would trade all of that if instead people would wonder, “What do I see of Allen in here? Why would Allen create this photo?” Or perhaps beyond wondering such things, a simple smile and an admission, “This is Allen’s photo,” would suffice. Connection. Relationship.
I am made in the image of a Creator God. His hand has wrought everything that I photograph. His creation does not exist in separation from Himself. His creation–whatever beauty, or functionality, it may provide–lacks its full and ultimate meaning if it is not linked back to Him.
How often have we tried to hear what the created is saying–much like deriving the thousand words from a photograph–while ignoring the Person who brought it into being, ignoring the one who’s creative act is what infused it with meaning, let alone existence?
My photographs are of me, and they can serve to reveal me to you.
If they were anything else, they would likely need more skill in composition, more expert enhancement in Photoshop, more mastery of the machinery that leads to their creation.
But they are not. They are just a part of me.
What you see, is who you get.