Prayer Can Be ... Photography

A mossy mop head. :)

I see a mossy mop head. Do you? 

Also, a heart.

About a year ago, a friend emailed to say she was considering an iPhone purchase and wondered how I’d liked my experience of owning one. I had owned mine for about six months at the time, and I wrote her back to say, “It’s changed my life.” 

It seems an audacious claim, I know.

But I made it in all seriousness. There were about 5 reasons I could list — quite readily — to detail why I’d found it to be true. 

And one of those 5 reasons — the most meaningful to me of them all — was the discovery of photography it brought into my life, specifically through the use of the Instagram app.

Whether you use Instagram or some other app, a “real” camera or just your handheld phone, photography can become a form of prayer in several different ways.

  • First, it makes us aware. When we have a camera in hand, we notice the details. We have an eye out for beauty. We’re present to our surroundings, looking for what speaks to us to be captured. 
  • Second, it makes us still. In the moment of taking a photograph, I find that everything slows down to zero. My breath even holds in my throat. I’m completely in tune with the moment and the object in front of my lens. Time evaporates. 
  • Third, it enlivens. On the Instagram app, the creative proess extends beyond the click of the camera. There’s an instant editing process that invites further interaction with the image and experience. Different filters lend perspective and mood. The blurring tools help accentuate intention. The photograph becomes an organism enlivened by our touch — and it’s enlivening to experience, too. 
  • Fourth, it gives us a chance for remark. When something catches my notice to be captured as a photograph, usually a short word, phrase, or line runs through my mind immediately. This becomes the photo’s caption — the way I share my heart in taking it, the way I make that image an offering.

I’ve found that photography — even my “poor man’s” version of it — heightens my love affair with beauty, stillness, perspective, and creativity. It’s a way to see and to express my heart. In a way, it’s how I tell God, “I see you here.”

Have you ever experienced photography as prayer?