Beatific Visions: Through a God-Colored Lens
First of all, let's state the obvious: I'm a Christian, and I'm a photographer. I grew up watching my mom, Jamie, build her portrait photography business from the ground up. In the early days, she hung a blanket on my closet door, dressed me up in pretty outfits (which I of course, LOVED) and tested her lighting and camera settings on me. As I got older and her business grew enough to build a studio, I would tag along holding reflectors, fixing hair and props, and learning more than I ever realized.
Fast forward to the birth of my second daughter at age 28, when my husband bought me a little Nikon D3200 kit with two lenses, and my own photography journey began. It started with me taking monthly photos of the first year of Audrey Beth's life, because how could I resist those chubby cheeks?!
When my youngest was 4 months old, my husband (an Episcopal priest) was called to be the rector of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Culpeper, VA. When I first started cyber-stalking St. Stephen's, what I was really hoping to find was pictures of what we were getting into. We live in such a visual culture now, with sites such as Instagram and Facebook, and daily Google image searches. I wanted to envision our lives in this new place, but nowhere could I find many images of the inside of the church or the people that brought life to it! That's when it dawned on me: most churches don't think about how to project the life and spirit of the church to those souls seeking a Christian community.
Early on in our Culpeper days. I packed up my little camera kit and went over to the church alone. I walked down the aisle, I sat in the pews, and I looked for God. Seeing God everywhere, I grabbed my camera and walked around the sanctuary taking photo after photo of the altar, the hymn books, the crosses. I discovered God in the hand-stitched kneelers, in the well-worn wooden pulpit, in the organ pipes, in the stained-glass windows. By the end of my visit I had tears in my eyes and a full, thankful heart.
So the next Sunday I brought my camera to church and started capturing these beautiful moments that happen when God brings people together. Old and young, black and white, male and female, these creatures of God were sharing in this communion of saints that goes back over 200 years at St. Stephen's. I discovered it really is possible to capture glimpses of the Spirit, the "Beatific Vision," through images.
My journey didn't stop at church. I was soon drawn to an amazing ministry called YoungLives, a Christian organization that reaches out to teen moms. Again, God used my lens to show both myself and the community how His Spirit was working through this amazing family of volunteers, teens, and babies. I was given the opportunity to capture these relationships between mentors and teens, as well as young mothers and their beautiful babies. I've watched this organization grow, I've watched the relationships grow, and I've watched the children grow - all while seeing Jesus right in the middle of it.
God literally gave me a lens through which to see the world, and I have seen it differently ever since. Photography, especially portraiture, has become such a joy in my life, and I have God to thank for it. If you love taking pictures, but don’t know where to start, I encourage you to grab your camera and look for God. I guarantee you’re going to be changed by what you see. Then, come back here and tell me what you find.
Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20,21