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.
In my journey with photography, I have become more aware of light. The presence of light, the absence of light, how it causes reflection, my friend, Paul Jeffrey, told us once that he always turns the flash off, taking advantage of natural light. (I’m sure the rule is “almost always.”) I find that in photographing nature, that I try to stick to that rule and rely on photo-editing software to help me out if I need it. He also taught us how to make a faux tripod to steady ourselves when our shutter speed is taking just a little bit too long.
Light is a dominant theme in religious traditions also.
- Christianity: “The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5),
- Islam: “Knowledge makes you free from the chains of ignorance, and revives your heart, knowledge takes you out from the darkness of suspicions and superstitions, and gives a new light to your eyes. (Hazrat Abu Ali Saqfi)
- Judaism: “I will say to the prisoners, ‘Go free!’ and to those who are in darkness, ‘Come out to the light!’ (Isaiah 49:9)
- Buddhism: “Doubt everything. Find your own light.” (Gautama Buddha)
- Hinduism: “One who kindles the light of awareness within gets true light.” (Unattributed)
- Baha’i: “Grant that the light of unity may envelop the whole earth.” (Bahá’u’lláh)
The general thrust is that light is a metaphor for that which brings us to a higher consciousness or awareness, provides hope, guidance, and love. It is a beautiful thing when, through appropriate use of light, we can communicate a deeper exploration of these qualities—awareness of what is unseen, hope, love, beauty—a very real reflection of life. And sometimes, light lets you see something in a different way.
My favorite picture that I’ve ever taken of one of my children captures light and it seems, to me, to convey innocence and an essential quality of “child” that is so easy to forget. This is an old photo, by the way! And the picture isn’t perfect, but it still conveys a lightness of being that transcends the particular quality of the photo.
How do the following pictures and their use of light point to something beyond the images captured in the photo?
What do thoughts of light lead you to? Do you have a favorite photo that features light or the absence of light?
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 email@example.com.
13 thoughts on “Sacred Space and Photography: Light”
It is good to awaken early and greet Father Sun who illumines the world with his light. (Some cultures see the sun as feminine.)
Yes! Now I want to go outside and do “Sun Salutation.”
How beautiful. And that photo is outstanding.
Thank you! I go back and forth between that one and the giggling at the duck and another one where he is casting the fishing line. But the giggles win every time.
deLIGHTful post Terri.
(And thank you for including a Baha’i quote. Every major religion, when stripped from dogma and human ego, indeed, sheds light on God’s truth).
My new word: Gassho. (Palms together, bowing).
Certainly do, Terri. Some of my most favourite photos are dazzling sunsets or those in which light is the subject rather than the mere illumination of the subject, although the latter can be very beautiful. Great post.
Yes! I heard a description of photography as, “drawing with light.” It is so true!
Beautiful post and photo! Whenever I see sunlight beams shining through the clouds, it always makes me think of God in Heaven. Maybe it’s that common image which has been drilled into us via all kinds of media, but it still awakens something inside that is pure joy whenever I see it. I have found that no matter how hard I try, I can never seem to get a good capture of fire flames in darkness. I love the image of fire light, because again, it awakens something primal inside…perhaps harkening back to our Neanderthal ancestors…a light in (and against) the darkness. Plus, the idea of a “twin flame”, as far as spirituality goes, is a strong interest. 🙂 Thanks again for sharing this post.
It was a joy!
And maybe it goes back to Michael Angelo’s painting of God and Adam where they extend their fingers across the cloudy sky. But that image itself is rooted somewhere. I bet Carl Jung would have something to say!