God is at Eye Level
(This is a series of posts on Jan Phillips’ book, God is at Eye Level, Photography as a Healing Art.
For an intro check out the first post here.)
God. From birth until leaving home at the age of 18…going to church every Sunday was very much a part of our family life. I grew up learning about Jesus and God and all the things that came with it…from the early days of bible school to my teenage years of doodling on the church bulletin and eagerly awaiting the end of the sermon to take that first cigarette puff to end my nicotine craving. It had been an hour you know. Surely some of you have been “there.”
Like Phillips’, my perception of God has changed dramatically over the years. Do I believe there is a higher power? Absolutely. But as years passed, my beliefs are more spiritual in nature and perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to Buddhism. (Isn’t it really all about leading a moral life, being mindful and aware of one’s thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom and understanding? But hey, that’s for another post!) But this chapter isn’t about whether you believe in Christianity, Buddhism, Catholicism, or any of the others, but as Phillips’ puts it… it’s more about “understanding our relationship to the Whole.” “God, to me, is the universe unfolding, the power and potential within all life, the Oak within our acorn selves. Not one bit separate, but fused with us like salt and sea, ever-present in the faces, the scenes, the feelings that pass through our lives day to day.”
Her last sentence in this chapter is powerful - “Each of us listens to a different voice within, but if we are true to the voice that speaks in our hearts, the images we make will heal our wounds, mend our brokenness. If we think clearly and carefully about the power of our images, and in our looking, see past the barriers, the walls that have been constructed between one person and another, we may one day stumble upon the Divine we’ve been trying all along to find.”
To me, if we are really observing or “seeing” when we photograph…it’s those moments of waiting…whether it’s for a person to removed themselves from the scene (or to appear!)…for the lighting to provide the perfect tone or contrast…or as Phillips’ describes…”waiting for the fawn to rise up from its cozy bed of green.” (Oh, if I could only write like that!) Not to just take a picture (which I think as a photographer most of us go through this stage) but to capture a scene that has meaning; one worthy to share, to make a difference in the world, to heal.
It’s been three years now on my photography journey, and oh how I can totally relate to the message in this chapter. Looking back, it was click, click click to document, document, document my experience. But I didn’t necessarily have the feeling. It’s only this past year that feeling the moment, feeling the intimacy in this new awareness…has it come front and center. And it’s only the beginning of this new chapter in my life’s journey…
Curious. Have you had this experience with your photography, your art, your writing? Would love to hear.
Next up: Chapter Eleven – The Thin Curved Line
Joining in for the very first time? Catch up on the previous chapters!
Chapter One – Through the Eyes of a Child