Sometimes I hear that cameras “get in the way” of real experience. Some say that photographers should “put the camera down” more often and remove the barrier between ourselves and the world around us. After several years of keeping the camera close at hand, however, I’ve never found it a hindrance. Rather, the camera has enhanced my vision and brought me closer, sometimes literally, to my environment. A camera in hand reminds me to notice the world and to explore it.
In her book Eyes of the Heart: Photography as Christian Contemplative Practice, Christine Paintner talks about “receiving” photos as opposed to “taking” or “making” them. She offers several exercises throughout the book. At the end of her second chapter, she suggests a contemplative walk with an emphasis on reception. She writes, “Photography is simply a tool to cultivate our ability to be present to the world” (p. 40). My “Creation Theology, Spirituality, and the Arts” class is reading through Paintner’s book as we explore biblical themes related to our environment. In preparation for this class, I took a contemplative photo walk around our campus. In these walks, I’m challenging myself to explore areas of the campus that I rarely visit, and I discover some beauty along the way. On my last walkabout, I encountered these colorful daylilies.