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I am excited to share my review of Spirituality In Photography: Taking pictures with deeper vision by Philip J. Richter.
Philip is a Methodist minister and theological educator, currently working as a ministry developer in the Connexional team. He is a keen amateur photographer who runs courses and writes about photography and spirituality. He co-wrote Gone But Not Forgotten: Church leaving and returning.
Learn more about Philip at Spirituality in Photography.
“You won’t need any prior experience or expertise – just some enthusiasm to explore how photography may deepen your spirituality (and vice versa!). You’ll need a camera of some sort – anything from a camera phone to a high–end camera.”
I have a 35mm digital camera that I purchased ten years ago that takes quite nice pictures. I also own a hand held digital camera that I received as a gift one year ago. Ironically, I find that my iPhone will take the same if not better quality of pictures.
When in Australia a few years ago, I left my 35mm camera on the plane after the flight from Sidney to Melbourne. (I did get my camera back in case you are curious.) We took a wonderful bus tour of the coast. I was forced to take pictures with my iPhone.
To my pleasant surprise, the iPhone pictures were quite spectacular. I agree! To begin you do not need any experience or even a high-end camera. You simply need some enthusiasm and a simple camera phone.
“Spirituality relates best to patient, slow photography, which takes the time to stop and look, to wind down and be truly present, to see with the “eyes of your heart”, to ‘receive’ or ‘make’ a picture, rather than ‘take’ it.”
I practice centering prayer. I let go of all thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. I open to the presence of God. I let God act in me. My job is to be present to God. Slow photography is the same thing. You let go and let the picture come to you. There is no rush. We let God frame the picture in the camera lens.
“Framing both reveals and conceals.”
“It is worth reflecting on what you regularly tend to include and exclude when framing. It may give you extra insight into what you most value in your life, and, therefore, habitually include in the frame.”
I have noticed how I frame my pictures. When I take pictures of people I tend to zoom in to reveal the shoulders and head in the picture. I can better see the eyes and facial gestures of my subject. The personality of my subject is better captured and shared for all who will later view this picture.
I also like to take pictures of small towns. I never shoot the picture head on. This flattens the picture. I shoot from an angle. I want to see the depth of the buildings. This always provides a much better and more realistic perspective.
God’s Mystery and Wonder
“For many people, dawn, when it is no longer night but not quite day, is a time when they glimpse something of Gods mystery and wonder.”
I agree. I mentioned earlier that I practice centering prayer. When I awake, I start my day with a silent sit. Centering prayer is a practice. It is my portal to the Divine. I open to the mystery and wonder of God first thing in the morning. Then, I begin my day and take the mystery and wonder of God with me into my day to day tasks.
Freshness and New Hope
“The new day is a time of infinite possibility and doesn’t need to be a repeat of yesterday.”
“You’re early morning photography may be able to capture and convey some of that sense of freshness and new hope.”
Like photography, my silent sit is my re-set button. I get to let go and start fresh. I may have had a tough day yesterday but today is a new day. I can reset and begin again. I can watch a new morning present itself. I can snap pictures of the sun rays gently strike the trees and surrounding buildings while people awake to begin their fresh and new day.
The Cloud of Unknowing
“An anonymous 14th century English Christian mystic coined the term the “Cloud of Unknowing” to describe this aspect of encounter with God: the willingness to leave behind our inadequate images and Holy clichés and rest in the power of God’s love.”
That is exactly what I do during centering prayer. We can do the same thing with photography. We can rest in God. We can let God frame the picture for us in the camera lens. We let the picture come to us. We rest and let God’s love fill the frame.
God in the Ordinary
“Photographing the ordinary and every day can help you ground your spirituality in what happens each day in familiar places. It can actively help you notice glimpses of God in the ordinary.”
God is in the ordinary. Some of my best pictures are not of people or scenes. They are in the mundane. For example, some of my best pictures include windows and doors on old colonial houses. God is in both the spectacular and mundane things. Why wouldn’t He be?
“As part of their spirituality some people practise a regular review, or ‘Examen, of each day. This involves re-playing the day to re-experience it and notice what stands out.”
This is a wonderful practice. I like to journal and will often type out the day’s events. I will include both the excitement and areas that bothered me. I tell God when I am worried and anxious.
I see a Spiritual Director. She often tells me to bring all of my day to the Divine and then type back what I think the Divine will say to me. I find the Divine does not wish me to worry and be anxious. God loves me! It upsets God when I feel this way.
“There are plenty more ways for photography and spirituality to inspire each other. Keep on exploring- this is just the beginning!”
I will continue to let my spirituality and photography inspire each other. They both have much to teach me.
I encourage you to check out Spirituality In Photography. I think it will inspire you too!
The Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice by Christine Valters Painter. Enjoy my review of this wonderful book.
The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom by Christine Valters Painter
Embracing Living: The Welcoming Prayer by Contemplative Outreach, Mary Dwyer, Therese Saulnier, Cherry Haisten, Jim McElroy: The Welcoming Prayer is a method of consenting to God’s presence and action in our physical and emotional reactions to events and situations in daily life. If Centering Prayer (or another daily prayer) is practiced for one hour of the day, the Welcoming Prayer is for the other 23 hours. It is a “letting go” in the present moment, in the midst of the activity of ordinary life.
Practicing the Presence of God by Pamela Begeman, Mary Ann Brussat, Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler, David Frenette: We live in a world of complexity, fragmentation, noise, and haste. We sometimes find ourselves overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of tasks, appointments, and commitments facing us. How can we experience God in the midst of the busyness, responsibilities, and activities of our daily lives? By practice. By living more in the present moment. By practicing the presence of God in the present moment.
Silence and the Spiritual Journey by Contemplative Outreach: The purpose of our historical lifetime is to provide us with space for the upward journey of evolution into vertical time and our assimilation of the eternal values that Christ brought into the world. This journey consists of everything from great touches of God (consolations) to the Dark Nights.
Sounds True has titles by teachers and authors such as Thomas Keating, Cynthia Bourgeault, James Finley, Richard Rohr, David Frenette, Parker Palmer , Adyashanti , Eckhart Tolle , Michael Singer , Jon Kabat-Zinn , Marianne Williamson to name a few.
Contemplative Light offers courses on contemplative practices (Christian Meditation, Centering Prayer, The Examen, Lectio Divina, The Jesus Prayer), the Christian mystics (ancient and current) and spiritual writing. Peruse their wonderful offerings.
Prayer-Bracelet: Authentic Orthodox prayer ropes and bracelets are handmade by monks in the Orthodox monastaries reciting a prayer for every knot they tie. Peruse their prayer ropes and bracelets that are all handmade, provided by several orthodox churches around the globe.
The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis – Fr. Rohr gives us a six-session learning course that explores: the surprising richness we discover through simplifying our lives (without taking a vow of poverty); liberation from our self-limiting biases and certitudes; contemplation and action, two key steps toward communing more deeply with the Divine; and more.
On Encountering the Wisdom Jesus, this brilliant author and dynamic Episcopalian priest presents her first full-length audio course about rediscovering the Master of Wisdom. Twelve immersive sessions cover: the parables as wisdom tools; Jesus’s teachings about kenosis (or self-emptying: a path as radical today as it was 2,000 years ago); Jesus as tantric master; Centering Prayer, an approach to meditation as Jesus lived it, and much more. The early Christians, teaches the Reverend Cynthia Bourgeault, were afire with the spirit of Jesus, inspired fully by his teaching of a total transformation of consciousness. How do we reclaim that fire today?
Centering Prayer Course: A Training Course for Opening to the Presence of God – Centering Prayer is a silent prayer practice that can move you toward a profound relationship with the Spirit of God within. It is a way of praying that opens the door to the Divine Indwelling—the ground of our being. With Centering Prayer, Father Thomas Keating and his colleagues Gail Fitzpatrick-Hopler and Father Carl Arico present the first online course in this method for deepening your intimacy with God and ultimately consenting to the presence and action of the Divine in all aspects of your life.
Since the time of the Desert Fathers in the third century, Finley begins, Christian mystics have practiced meditation as a way of opening to the direct presence of God in daily life. Legendary seekers such as Saint John of the Cross, Saint Teresa of Avila, and Meister Eckhart explored how meditation can lead us beyond the closed horizon of the ego, to an interior and holy refuge that is always available to us. On Christian Meditation, James Finley offers a gentle introduction to this all-transforming way of life, and the ever-deepening realization of oneness with Christ it leads us to. (Based upon his book, Christian Meditation.)
Thomas Merton’s Path to the Palace of Nowhere: The Essential Guide to the Contemplative Teachings of Thomas Merton – Now James Finley, who for six years lived, prayed, and studied with Brother Louis, as Merton was known at the Abbey of Gethsemani, shares with us the gifts passed on to him by this towering figure.
“My experience—from the depths of depression to the heights of joy—has taught me that the path toward wholeness takes patience and passion,” teaches Parker Palmer. With An Undivided Life, you will receive his timeless wisdom and guidance to help you discern, trust, and follow your authentic self at home, in your work, and in the world. We all yearn for a life that is whole—where “soul and role” are aligned and our innermost wisdom guides us in our actions. Perhaps no one has explored this topic more deeply than bestselling author and distinguished educator Parker J. Palmer.