I never really took a photograph for artistic purposes until I traveled to Europe a few months ago. The only camera I’d ever owned before that point was one of those disposable ones that I would take on youth group trips and a.) just try to take pictures with cute girls and b.) inevitably drop it in a river or a lake or a toilet. I’m awesome.
I got to college and ended up living with my friend Jeff the entire time I attended LU. Jeff and his girlfriend Huong are the two that introduced me to photography beyond my basic knowledge of dropping disposable cameras in water. Now I think I’m addicted.
As I said, I bought my first camera for my backpacking trip through Europe. I took about four thousand or five thousand photos in total throughout those 19 countries. Then, when I got back to the States, I signed up for a “Fundamentals of Photography” class at the campus of Indiana University in my hometown. I’ve been learning the craft of taking photographs, developing film and making and editing prints. Now I always have at least one camera with me wherever I go, and usually there’s another one in my trunk. A Polaroid camera is normally somewhere within 10 feet of me at all times.
As I’ve developed (puns!) this love of photography, I’ve noticed that I’ve begun to view everything through a viewfinder, both with a camera in my hands and without one. I observe how light will hit a certain scene or an expression that someone gives. I’ll watch how two people in love interact and how their silent expressions tell a story without using a single word. I notice how I view everything from roughly six feet in the air, and how stale that gets after a while. Sometimes I need to lie on my back and look up, or lie on my face and look down. If I don’t get a new perspective on things, then I get bored very quickly. I want to see things in unique ways, not the same way that everyone else sees them.
I’d like to take this thought further.
I think my viewfinder is egotistical. A writer I enjoy a great deal says that life is a film about him. In his life, he’s in every scene, and you and I are just extras in his film. Everywhere he goes, he is in the scene, and every scene revolves around him. He is the main character.
It’s the same for you and for me.
Everywhere I go I see things through a male lens. I’ve tried to understand things through a female perspective (really, I have), but I naturally view my world from a male’s perspective. When it comes to the scriptures, I am intentional about seeing the motherly side of God.
I see things through a middle class, Caucasian lens. It’s not that this is a bad thing, but it can be bad when I stop trying to see things through the lens of other cultures and classes. There are 6 billion people in the world. If I plan to spend eternity in the Kingdom with every other culture, race, gender, class, etc., then I had better start looking through my viewfinder in different ways.
I try to view everything I do through two main viewfinders in every situation I find myself in: eternal and global.
In my local gathering right now, there is this group of people who are rather upset about the fact that we lack something rather minor in our building. It’s very, very minor. I try to explain the fact that we actually have a building and heat. There are places in the world that would give anything for a building to meet in or for a government that was going to actually permit them to meet legally.
There is a group of people who don’t like how some people dress when they are on stage in a church gathering. They say it is disrespectful. The fact remains that we have shoes and warm clothes. There are some places (lots of places) in the world that can’t afford jackets for their families. Is it possible that a global perspective could spark a people who are more conscious about how much they spend on clothes and regarding who in the world needs what and how to get it to them effectively? I wonder which is more disrespectful: wearing more inexpensive clothes in order to clothe more people or ignoring those people so I can get more from Banana Republic.
In the Western Church there seems to be this need for excellence and perfection when it comes to our Sunday morning gatherings. If something goes wrong or something doesn’t appear to be flawless, then people flip out. People will leave a church if things aren’t done with enough excellence. I try to explain to people that if we don’t have a band on a Sunday morning that everything is going to be okay. Tomorrow is still going to happen. If we don’t have super expensive trendy lights then life will continue to move. The world will keep rotating. It’s going to be alright. If the heat goes out in the building for some reason, we don’t have to go church shopping. We can wear out coats. The sun shall rise again. The kingdom will still continue to function.
We’re all going to be ok! Hooray!
And now … there are more lenses to look through. More perspectives to discover.