The technology, speed, and busyness so prized by our Western culture foster a habit of blindness. For all the bustle, a dreary sameness comes to mark the places where we live. We forget that there is a vast depth beneath the apparent surfaces of things.
The eye of aesthetic spirituality sees more than other eyes. Art in general, and photography in particular, helps to facilitate this awakening by granting epiphanies through its transfigurations of the ordinary. We come to know more than what appears within our line of vision.
–Christine Valters Painter, Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice
There is great truth in this. I know I have come to see the world differently since I started photography…I was so blind to all of the beauty around me, in everyday things I never saw before and completely took for granted.
I remember when my mom had cataract surgery, a number of years ago. It was a joy to drive her home afterwards, for she was like a small child again, exclaiming that she’d forgotten how beautiful the world was, how lovely all of the colors were; my mom was experiencing the world in a completely new and unique way, at the age of 76. Cataract surgery–having the film removed from one’s eyes–is a prefect metaphor for a new way of seeing reality. A way of seeing with wonder and amazement.
That’s how I feel when I am photographing, for instance, purple flowers from a five dollar supermarket bouquet. Take, for instance, the lovely flirty ruffled curve of their petals, their soft, velvety textures, their gorgeous deep and rich purple tones…I live my life immersed in beauty, chronic pain and depression be damned! The ordinary is indeed transformed.
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Photography has helped me to be grateful for the beauty of this glorious, fascinating world God has given us. Sometimes just the act of photographing a flower, a sunset, the smile on my husband’s face (oh my, do I love his dimples!), becomes a prayer of gratitude in itself.
What about you? If you like photography, do you find it has changed the way you see, and participate in, reality? Or is there another spiritual practice that transfigures your world, your everyday experiences?