photography is an invitation
Photography invites us to rediscover the wonder of God’s creation one-click at a time. As we step beyond the borders of our ordinary days and begin to pay attention, to pause, observe, and notice, we are drawn into the holy just outside our own front door.
Ernesto Cardenal wrote, “Everything in nature has a trademark, God’s trademark: the stripes on a shell and the stripes on a zebra; the grain of the wood and the veins of the dry leaf; the markings on the dragonfly’s wings and the pattern of stars on a photographic plate; the panther’s coat and the epidermal cells of the lily petal; the structure of atoms and galaxies. All bear God’s fingerprints.”
“I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief,” writes Wendell Berry. “I come into the presence of still water … For a time, I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”
God’s creation, which bears His holy trademark, invites us to press pause and take off our shoes – our anxious thoughts, our pain, stress, the heaviness of loss, and grief – for in His presence, we are standing on holy ground.
photography invites us to behold the holy
“Beholding has a slow and spacious quality to it … There is a reflective and reverential quality to this kind of seeing,” writes theologian Dorothe Sölle.
Photography lends itself to a slow and spacious practice. The word itself is derived for two Greek words, phos, meaning light, and graphê, meaning drawing or writing. So photography is literally drawing or writing with light.
Lydie from 24-7 Prayer writes, “Over the last few years, I’ve discovered that God speaks to me through my camera. Walking and praying, camera in-hand, sharpens my focus. God will often draw my eye to something I would have otherwise missed.”
photography invites us to discover god’s trademark
When we pull a chair up to the window or step outside into the sunshine or hike a local nature trail, we are building time into our days to look for God’s trademarks, to listen for His still small voice, to lean into His Presence, and to recognize that wherever we are, because the Spirit lives in us, we are already standing on holy ground. What a beautiful invitation to write with light.
“For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky.
Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—
his eternal power and divine nature.”
Romans 1:20 NLT
Contemplative photography is a slow and spacious art
Contemplative photography is a way of seeing with new eyes, of learning to pay attention to the rich beauty sometimes hidden in plain sight, focused less on mechanics and techniques and more on awe and wonder.
“God is not just the creator of beauty,” writes Sara Haggerty, “He is beauty itself … made for beholding.”
Contemplative photography – an invitational prompt
Choose a familiar spot in a comfortable environment. Spend 10-15 minutes observing your surroundings, noticing the objects, light, colors, shadows, patterns, textures, movement, and sounds. After 15 minutes, pick up your camera. Look through the lens. Frame the objects, shadows, and patterns you noted. Does what you frame through the lens change what you notice or how you see it?
Reflect on your experience
- What did you see differently or in a new way?
- Did that change when you looked through the camera lens?
- Did the relationships between objects change as you looked through the lens?
- Were you struck by an analogy or metaphor for your faith or current circumstances?
- Did you notice anything you hadn’t seen before?
- Did the lens impose limits or did it amplify your vision?
- Where did you notice God’s holy trademark?
photography as visio divina
“There are times when music and other forms of art become vital because words alone won’t suffice,” writes Parker J. Palmer. When we need more, photography can lead us into prayer.
Visio Divina, which means holy seeing, shares its roots with Lectio Divina, meaning holy reading. Both prayer practices invite us to slow down to see or read deeply, beyond our first impressions or initial judgments.
As prayer, photography teaches us to observe the dynamics of light and shadow, color and texture, frame and subject. “Pausing to see more deeply, with the eyes of our hearts, trains us to be more attentive to the presence and work of God below the surface of our lives,” writes Doreen Miller.
Andee Zetterbaum adds, “The only way of photography that I know, is the one immersed in prayer, wrapped in deep silence.”
“Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind.
And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.”
Philippians 4:8 TPT
how to practice visio divina
- PREPARE. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to settle your mind and still your thoughts. Ask God what He wants to show you today.
- READ. Choose a passage of Scripture or even a single verse. Read it slowly. Read it slowly again, then read it out loud. Listen to the words. “The Word of God takes new shape when we don’t just read it but hear it, and from our own mouths,” writes Sara Haggerty
- OBSERVE. Be still. Listen. And notice. What catches your eye or draws your attention? What stirs your heart? What moves you?
- PRAY. Talk with God about His Word and His creation.
- How did you sense God speaking to you?
- Did you notice a connection between God’s Word and His creation?
- Between His Word and your faith?
- Between creation and your circumstances?
- Often God includes metaphors to help us better understand Him. Did you notice an apt metaphor? Did it help you to see differently?
- Did you sense an invitation from God?
- Did thanksgiving well up in you today or are your weighed down by current circumstances?
When photography becomes prayer, we begin to notice God’s holy trademark all around us and we begin to see differently, with or without a camera in our hands.
Keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real,
honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind.
And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always.
Philippians 4:8 TPT
Creative Photo Challenges
Photography challenges are a fun, hope-filled invitation, a commitment to pick up your camera to simply notice, and click.
30 / 365 Photo Challenge
Photography challenges are a fun, personal challenge, a commitment to pick up your camera, phone, tablet, or Go-Pro and capture a photo every day for a month or a year.
Photography Challenges for Teens and Tweens
Photography challenges are easy and fun. Pick up your camera, notice, and click. Take a selfie, go on photowalks, choose a theme, or how about photos of books?
Kid-friendly photography challenges are fun and an easy way to express creativity. Go on a photo scavenger hunt, photo walks, notice the shadows, or how about clicking a picture everyday for a month?
We invite you to submit your favorite digital photograph. It can be a new image or one you’ve loved for years. But remember, you can only Submit 1.
Submit 1 guidelines
- Must be taken by you
- Can be taken with any format camera – phone, tablet, point-and-shoot, DSLR, Go-Pro, or drone
- Can feature any type of photography – action, landscape, macro, nature, people, sports, still life, wide angle, etc.
- Should be landscape orientation only
- Must be appropriate for all audiences
- Should include an image title by [your name]
- Should include a caption of 160 characters or less that tells a little bit of “why” behind the photo (Character Counter is a free on-line character counting tool)
- Complete our short Permissions Release (Please disregard “Are you willing to record your post(s)?” question for this submission.)
- Submit image, title, and caption to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Framing Faith: From Camera to Pen, An Award-Winning Photojournalist Captures God in a Hurried World
In this modern age, many of us fill every "spare" moment we have rather than taking an intermission to see the true works of God and realize that he is present in every moment. The author illustrates a new way to see God and to help us live in the moment through the exploration of various photography concepts.
Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice
Christine Valters Paintner
More than a book on photographic technique, it is about cultivating photography as a spiritual practice. The book goes through six themes connecting the medium of photography with the Christian spiritual life, inviting readers to a new way of viewing the world--through the lens of a camera.
Spirituality in Photography: Taking Pictures with Deeper Vision
Millions of photos are taken every day across the world. Some are just snapshots. Others are more carefully crafted and have the capacity to deepen our vision and sharpen our sense of what life is truly about. Spirituality in Photography explores how photography can offer unique perspectives on the self, the world, and what we live by.
Contemplative Vision: Photography As a Spiritual Practice
Did you know that your digital camera (or smart phone) can be a window to wonder and God? Indeed, the practice of contemplative photography invites people of faith to set aside distractions of contemporary life. This enables them to view the world through the eyes of the divine and uncover the ex-traordinary in the ordinary.