Saturday, 4 May 2013

Review: Eyes of the Heart- Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice author Christine Valters Paintner

This is not a book about photographic technique: rather, it is about cultivating photography as a spiritual practice. Adapting the monastic practice of lectio divina (sacred reading) into a form of visio divina (sacred seeing), spiritual director and Benedictine oblate Christine Valters Paintner invites readers to a new way of viewing the worldthrough the lens of a camera. Drawing on the Christian tradition of the spiritual senses, Paintner guides readers through six themes connecting the medium of photography with the Christian spiritual life. Each theme provides a photographic journey in which the reader does not simply take images, but receives images. Readers are prompted to engage what St. Paul describes as the eyes of the heart (Eph 1:18) and understand how through photography, they can see the world around them more deeply and discover anew their own spiritual capacity. Creative exercises offer both novice and accomplished photographers rich reflection. Photos by the author are included. [Goodreads]

" see takes time, like to have a friend takes time."
-Georgia O'Keefe
I loved this quote and its impact regarding the material of Eyes of the Heart. It's a book of process. Process takes time...

The first 2 chapters introduce the reader to the idea and practice of simply receiving images from the world around us, as gifts to us for inner exploration. Next chapter introduced shadow and light as spiritual dimensions we can view through the lens as well as our personal interior. By chapter 4 we were exploring framing and reframing ourselves and our self-stories just as we can frame and reframe our photo subjects. Colour, our inspiration for chapter 5. Creative sources of reflections of the holy in our world for chapter 6. Self-portraits, our chapter 7 topic. Chapter 8 ties it all together; God is in our seeing. Open the eyes of our heart to see the Divine Presence everywhere. To live in awe and wonder.

Supporting quotes open each chapter, in depth instructional material plus each chapter provides multiple activities for interaction to deepen the learning opportunities; to enrich the inner growth available through intentional practice. eg. Go walking. What images evoke/reflect your deepest dreams/longings/wishes/hopes...? or scripture passages to contemplate,journal and apply.

“..every photo we make is in some way a self-portrait, b/c it reveals something about how we see the world.” What are our photos saying about us? “In a sense your photographs are your autobiography.” –Dorothea Lange. Everyday objects can symbolically represent the self. For me, the teacup icons I use are a self portrait. Stacks of books another. In fact, more representational of me than a single dimension photo visage.

Here is a book intent on breaking down the perpetuation of our false self that wants “to create only images beautiful in the eyes of others or ‘marketable’ rather than truthful.” We must discover our true self – ‘who I am beneath the accolades and achievements’. What desires has God planted in our heart? The exercises included are designed for just such discoveries.

Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice is a personable guide to a life of awareness lived centered in calm and stillness rather than knocked off course by reactive emotions. I highly recommend it for those who wish to live at a deeper than surface level. For those who are ready to take the necessary steps in that direction and for those who pray, "Lord, Open the eyes of my heart"...

*My appreciation to Ave Maria Press for providing an ebook copy for review without obligation. 

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