Sunday, January 11, 2009

Photography as Prophecy

Photography often feels like a hunt. I am always armed and will quickly pull my camera out and leap into a place where I can get a clean shot of my quarry. Sometimes it’s a bird on the wing. Sometimes it’s a sun that’s falling. Sometimes I’m driving home at seventy miles an hour and there happens to be the most beautiful scene ever on the left side of the road.

I remember once in the middle of conversation seeing a hawk or falcon (please tell me if you can ID the bird) begin to dive near me. I literally ran so I could see the valley into which it dove, drew my camera, and took my footing. Holding the camera like a pistol, steadying my right hand with my left, I tracked the bird, held my breath, squeezed the trigger and fired. It was a perfect shot.

Another time I was a distance from a beautiful field that would perfectly catch the sunset, if only I could get there in time. I was walking fast, but the sun was setting faster. I started running, being slowed by beautiful obstacles that would not permit me to pass without photographing them. The batteries of my camera died. Like a soldier reloading under heavy fire, I quickly dropped out the old batteries and reloaded new ones. I made it to the field just in time to catch the setting sun a beautiful grassy field.

What is the mission of a photographer? To capture beauty. It’s a simple yet profound task. The object itself has been created by God directly or secondarily through human hands; the talent of the photographer is to see it.

I think its primary goal, capturing beauty, has much the same purpose as prophecy. Photography, like all art, is a portal to eternity. As the prophets who shared their glimpses of heaven causing us to yearn for its glory, I aim to make visible that which is invisible to most. I have no ambitions to pass Isaiah, but I would like to share whatever of heaven that can be shared.

In “The Problem of Pain” C.S. Lewis describes his view of Heaven. Have you ever “…stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life? All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it…but if it should really become manifest …you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say ‘Here at last is the thing I was made for.’”

A great photograph is only ever a shadow of the Truth; it is to the real thing as a two-dimensional black shadow is to the three-dimensional object that cast it. I took the picture above on the I-5 on the north side of the grapevine. It may have been the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen, and stirred within me a yearning and homesickness for a place like it, a place I have never been but is my home.

I believe that the landscape was the rim of an eclipse. We’re in the shadow of the sun, its bland and natural light blocking the glory of heaven. It is complete, except in the few places and times where we glimpse the edge; in the photo above, snow, grass, shadow and light converge to offer a momentary flicker of the glory that is coming, a prelude to a song that will soon be sung. It can’t come soon enough!
Isa 49:13 Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; and break forth into singing, O mountains: for the LORD hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted.

1 comment:

  1. What beautiful pictures. Hey, I still want that picture of Rocky on the Rock!