August 2, 2011

Vision of the Heart

As an amateur photographer, it has always been interesting to me to hear what people think about my photos. I get a lot of good input from my photographer friends about composition, processing, and such, but I really enjoy hearing from non-photographers when they talk about what thoughts and feelings one of my photos invokes. It's amazing to me how different people can look at the same photo and see so many different things and stories in the picture, especially since I rarely have a conscious idea of any kind of story in a photo, I simply see something that catches my interest, and try to capture the image as best I can.

Last night, I was talking with a friend about my photos while looking through them, and she was telling me different things that a friend of hers saw in my pictures. Some of the ideas were similar to what I thought about them, but as a non-photographer, her friend was looking much deeper than things like composition, exposure, and processing; she was looking at the pictures with her heart, rather than her mind. Sometimes, I've done a series of photos that tell an explicit story from just the images, like my series Shattered Dreams.
At other times, I've fit a series of photos to a message that I wanted to express, as in this three-part photoessay.
And sometimes, there's no story or message to be told, simply something in which I found beauty that I wanted to share with others.

Regardless of the message or intent that I have in a photo, I love how an image can move other people to think, feel and look deeper, both in the image and within themselves. What this topic really got me to thinking about this morning is how it is so easy to not think, feel, and look deeper into the images that our eyes constantly bring us. Especially in the images of the people we see. In our closer friends, we know the story and message, to some extent, and these close relationships are easy to look into deeper. But what about the images of the random people we come across? Am I taking even a slight moment to look deeper into them and their actions and motives? Is there something, even as small as simple understanding, that I could do for that person? Throughout the Gospels, we see how Jesus was perfection embodied, and especially of seeing and knowing the deeper story and meaning with a person. So, if I am trying to live a Christ-like life, I think it starts with trying to improve the vision of my heart, to see into the joys and sufferings of another. If I can spend time trying to imagine the story behind pixels on my computer screen, then why is it so hard for me to do the same with the real-life image of a person. Understanding a picture on a screen requires very little of me; to do the same for a person requires me to empty myself. To empty myself and let Christ's heart dwell within me is something easily rhapsodized about, yet so very difficult to even begin doing. My ego clings to its walls, refusing to be set aside, even for something better.

Still, as a behaviorist at heart, I think that our outside actions work to transform out inner experience. At the same time, I know that I must engage in the deeper inner reflection, as I am changing the outer actions, because I know that God wants us to seek wisdom. By focusing on either the internal or external, I gain valuable knowledge. Only by combining the two in a prayerful, seeking heart do I gain wisdom. A new pair of glasses with which to see the world and those in it, so to speak...

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