This month is interNational Photography month! Here at The Bardo Group, we will be playing with this theme all month-long. On Sundays, we will be focusing on where the practice of photography intersects with our own experience and expression of spirituality.
Perspective is how we look at things. In a lot of ways it can be correlated with our privilege. When we have a lot of privilege in terms of social, economic, and political capital, we tend to see things from an empowered or “power over” perspective. When we have don’t have a lot of privilege, we tend to see things from a “power under” perspective. So our perspective on life or power placement has a lot to do with how we encounter others.
In my religious tradition, and in most spiritual movements (in my understanding), there is a movement to put power down and to empower those who have little power. Just a sampling:
- Christianity has the beatitudes as a starting point,
- Islam has the practice of charity,
- Judaism has the call to care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger among us,
- Buddhism feels it is important to support the poor and needy,
- Hinduism practices that all life forms are respected and should be treated well.
- Baha’i faith which embraces loving kindness for all life forms and truth in all sacred scriptures (thank you to readers for adding on!)
And it goes on! So it seems that in the great religious traditions, the practice of caring for those who are among “the lost, the least, and the lonely” is of paramount importance. I think the challenge is moving from a position of “power over” to a position of “power with.” This involves a change of perspective. (See, I’m getting to the photographic point!)
I think that if our spiritual practices support our daily living, we will have more effective daily living! If we need to work on finding different perspectives from “power over,” then one way to do it is through photography as a spiritual practice.
How we see things tells a story. Perspective is a spiritual practice and can be embodied in our photography practice. How does it change your view if, instead of being up high as an adult, you crouched down or laid down? One recent photo I took is a great example for perspective. One of my friend’s comment was: “I wish I had a mouse on a skateboard!” Which brought an even new viewpoint because I definitely would not have thought of that! However, once she said that, I now have a perpetual picture of a mouse playing on the below log.
To get this photo, I had to crouch way down onto the log and become one with the dirt. It looks way cool from here. The photo from standing up is not nearly as fun. It loses the “going on forever” perspective.
Over time, I’ve gotten better at thinking of doing this—of finding new perspectives. The same is true in my life—almost to a fault! I might over-identify with some of my people who are among the lost, the least, and the lonely. Sometimes. But by noticing new perspectives in photography, it models for me new perspectives in my spiritual life and then new perspectives in my lived life.
- See the world in a new way
- See the divine in a new way
- See others in a new way
Below are three photos of trees—the same trees with different perspectives (on the same hike). I think each one tells a different story.
Applying this to the ideas of perspective & our story as embodied in relationships of power over, power with, or power under—how can we develop the flexibility to enter into another perspective?
You never know what you will see when you begin to enter into another perspective. I found this lovely leaf cradling a little tiny leaf. How beautiful! And it makes me remember the way we should cradle one another.
Who will you cradle today by seeing something with a new perspective?
Shalom and Amen!
Post by Terri Stewart, 2014
Photography, CC License (CC BY-NC)
Terri Stewart ~ a member of our Core Team, comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.
Her online presence is “CloakedMonk.” This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk. To reach her for conversation, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
14 thoughts on “Sacred Space in Photography: Perspective”
Terri, these are absolutely spectacularly beautiful photographs! Your post on perspective captures an essence of sacred space for me.
P.S. You left out the Baha’i faith which embraces loving kindness for all life forms and truth in all sacred scriptures:
Bahá’u’lláh said, “The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens,” and that, as foretold in all the sacred scriptures of the past, now is the time for humanity to live in unity.”
(“Bahá’u’lláh’s essential message is of unity. He taught the oneness of God, the oneness of the human family, and the oneness of religion.)
Thank you! I am going to update the post to include Bahai.
I didn’t name you as the person prompting me to “add on,” would you like me to include your name or your avatar?
Curious to the MAX is Judith Westerfield.
Thank you Terri for showing us the world through your eyes.
Wonderful post, Terri.
Couldn’t agree more: perspective to consciousness is like light to photography. Changing it up makes a completely new picture.
Terri, what beautiful photographs to echo the truth of your observations – new perspectives (to me still a reframing) that feel like a clean sweep. I so enjoy the running theme of sacred space, as you know, and you combination of photography in sacred space is profoundly moving. Thanks for taking this on this month. Much valued.
Thank you so much! I love having a theme. This helps me have “focused” ideas. Plus then I’m writing the post in my head all week long as I see things and think about them in terms of life, spiritual practice, and photography.
Thank you for a very thought-provoking post. I love this analogy of life and photography, about perspective and re-framing it, which is what photographers do all the time. I was posting on another website and realized that the piece was a good illustration of what you are talking about. Here is a new link to “Editing Monet’s Garden.”