Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Eyes of the Heart

I've blogged before about my favorite creative expression/spirituality website, Abbey of the Arts. You may remember that I have participated in more than one of the Abbey's online classes and retreats, the most recent being a Lenten retreat based on the writings of Hildegard of Bingen. The website's creator, Christine Valters Paintner has just published a new book, "Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Contemplative Practice," which I was privileged to read digitally before publication and am equally privileged to review here

Christine's book focuses on photography as an expressive art that can both deepen our awareness of the world we live in and also enrich our spiritual practice. In her words..
"Photography as a spiritual practice combines the act of image-receiving with the contemplative nature and open-heartedness of prayer."
 Divided into chapters that enable the reader to explore such topics as light and shadow, color, what's hidden and what's revealed, the book not only explains viewing the world through the camera lens in a different way, but also gives the reader practices and tools to utilize in exploring photography as part of a personal spiritual journey. These practices enrich both the spiritual and the creative expression of photography. This is not a technical book to teach you  how to be a better photographer. Rather it's a guide to help you explore the creative process of prayerfully receiving images. If you are a contemplative person, Christine shows you ways to deepen your spiritual practice. If you are a photographer searching for ways to free yourself from the box of 'taking/shooting/capturing' pictures, Christine invites you to see with a softer gaze and to sink into the process instead of targeting only the finished product.

I found the book both very readable and very thought-provoking. As a person who wants to create beautiful photographs, I found myself challenged to release that expectation and just let myself be gifted with whatever appeared in my view finder. One of the most difficult changes I encountered was shifting the language with which we speak about photography. Think about how you describe photography..taking photos, shooting an image, capturing a shot or light or action. Very aggressive words that describe definitive actions, planning, and specific expectations of a result. Christine speaks only of image-receiving; images that pull us to them as gifts given by a Higher Power for our enjoyment or edification. She invites the reader to be open with a soft focus on the world and to let the process unfold itself in a prayerful manner.

I've read the book through once and am now reading it again, this time doing the practices and exercises that Christine offers. As I complete them, I'll share some of my reflections with you. So, for the next few weeks, look for the word BEHOLD in the post title; this will be the label for each exercise I share. And the first one will be about what it means to BEHOLD the world.

You can purchase the book here:
Ave Maria Press
Amazon.com (via Abbey of the Arts website)
Barnes and Noble

1 comment:

  1. Sounds an interesting book - and you obviously get a lot out of the website. I will look out for BEHOLD - very Biblical word!