Tuesday, April 30, 2013

BEHOLD: A Definition

Last Tuesday I reviewed "Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice," by Christine Valters Paintner. (If you missed that post, you can find it here.) This Tuesday and for the following 3 weeks, I'll share some of my experiences with the book's tools and practices. Today we start with BEHOLD, a way of seeing. Christine defines it as 'holding something in your gaze. It is not a stare or a quick glance. It has a slow, spacious quality to it.'

Behold is written many times in scripture. It seems to me to be polite 'angel-speak' for "listen up" or "pay attention,  we're about to announce something important." When we BEHOLD through the camera lens, we listen up with our eyes, knowing that the Creator is showing us something we should pay attention to. Notice that I didn't say that we are shown something we need to shoot or capture. No, contemplative photography is about what an image stirs within us, what it beckons us to ponder or revel in. We create nothing with the image; the image creates within us.

I liken it to quietly watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset. We drink in the wonder of it We swirl it around in our hearts while we watch it change minute-by-minute. We savor, we appreciate. We may even say a little prayer of thanks, knowing a higher power than us created it. We BEHOLD, and we are moved.

Sometimes our eyes are drawn to that which is not beautiful, though. A photographer would dismiss this un-pretty image as not worthy of a shot. A contemplative, however, would BEHOLD, gaze in wonder and ask why. Why does this image shimmer for me? Why am I asked to BEHOLD it? There is nothing beautiful about a fallen tree being swept downstream by a murky, dirty river, bank-full with spring run-off. Yet, as I ponder the questions, answers begin to come and stories begin to swirl in my mind.

The true beauty of BEHOLD, though, is that which draws my eye will be different than that which draws yours. Even if we both BEHOLD the same image, we will 'see' it with our hearts in different ways. Contemplative photography, then, becomes a most private and intimate journey into our personal spirituality.

If you are interested in learning more or purchasing "Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice"  please click here. 

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