It is four o’clock in the morning. With my sturdy tripod in one hand and my camera bag in the other, I set out to capture the profundity of divinity. Through human means, I will labour to capture an awesome and rapturous vision for others to see. The representation will be sufficient, I suppose. But in truth, capturing such absorbing beauty is like trying to pour the Pacific ocean into a thimble. Precariously negotiating the slippery rocks in the enveloping darkness, I meander my way through the labyrinth of punished rock. While fighting my cumbersome photography equipment, I situate myself for the best possible shot. The waves are crashing against the rocks with a humbling force and so many thoughts are going through my mind – not the least of which is my personal safety. Why am I doing this? What is the purpose of photography? The purpose of photography is to magnify God’s greatness. Sitting on a rock shelf gazing over the Pacific Ocean, I await my prey. It will be rising over the water at any moment. Just then, it appears. The rising sun – majestic and mighty – shoots out its brilliant rays to create a vision from heaven itself – a visual euphoria which arrests my eyes and pierces my soul. I began this journey as the hunter. I become the hunted.
The first sunrise after three weeks of rain (Coalcliff, NSW Australia)
In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul testifies to man’s common and inherent understanding of creation and God’s place in it. It is so evident from right reason that faith is not necessary to acknowledge it. This is why St. Paul says that “men are without excuse”.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)
St Bonaventure explains to us that God created all things: “not to increase His glory, but to show it forth and communicate it.” Therefore, God did not create to increase in His own perfection, but rather to manifest this perfection for our beatitude out of divine love for His children, who are His greatest and most cherished creation. But what is God’s glory communicating to us through creation? Ultimately, God’s glory is communicating truth to us. Before God revealed Himself through the Word of Truth, God revealed Himself through the work of Truth in creation:
“God’s truth is His wisdom, which commands the whole created order and governs the whole world.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 216; cf. Wis 13:1-9)
Harvest Time (Farmer, WA USA)
What can we conclude from this revelation of Truth through creation? We can conclude that we have always had the foundations of faith right in front of us from the beginning! But our grounding in this faith is so often lacking because we first do not know how to see – one who knows how to see, knows how to believe.
In photography, the lens is the eye of the camera system. The lens gathers light from the subject and bends the light rays to form an image on the film. Lens choice is crucial to the process of photography – it allows us to select how much of the setting we wish to include in the frame. It also allows us to emphasize and isolate certain aspects of the composition in order to create the perspective we want to give (this is done through the lens speed which alters the photograph’s depth of field). However, if we choose the wrong lens, our perspective is lost, and we fail to fulfill the true potential of the photograph.
Kelly’s Falls (Helensburgh, NSW Australia)
The same can be said with regards to our view of creation. We look too little at the living Genesis that is in front of us, this living foundation of faith. Even if we do look, we rarely see it because we are not using the right lens in order to see. The right lens is the soul. We need to look through the eyes of the soul with humility and love, and then we can see, and then we can know how to believe. Other lenses such as science, important as they are, can only bend the rays of light (Truth) to a certain point, but this lens is lacking in love and humility, so how can we possibly expect to see our Father, who is Love and humility?
We live in a confused world that has been deceived into believing that the counterfeit is the real thing – that all Truth is subjective and thereby God is irrelevant. In our relativistic haze, we have forgotten the immutable Truth of objective Truth. It’s time we began to look again at the objective beauty of God’s creation, so that we may know how to believe.
This brings me to our second question. In what ways can we communicate this Truth to others? The Catechism gives us one suggestion:
“Created ‘in the image of God’, man also expresses the truth of his relationship with God the Creator by the beauty of his artistic works…to the extent that it is inspired by truth and love of beings, art bears a certain likeness to God’s activity in what he has created” (CCC, 2501).
If it is inspired by truth and love of beings, photography can be a potent means for evangelization in this culture of death and destruction. By showcasing God’s beauty and magnificance in creation, photography can bear resemblance to God’s activity in what He has created.
The very word “photography” is evidence of this. The word photography is derived from the two Greek words photos (meaning “light”) and graphos (which means “write”). Therefore, photography means to “write with light”. This is analogous to our Father, who created all things through, with and in the “true light”, His only Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 1:1-3, 9; and Col 1:16-17).
The Spirit of God moving over the face of the waters. (Coalcliff, NSW Australia)
However, even when contemplating the concept of photography as a microcosm of God’s creation, it should leave us humbled when we think of the mastery of how God created. For example, the whole concept of exposure is just a simplified version of how God created the human eye. God created the average human eye to be able to cope with a latitude of 50,000. Latitude measures how well film can cope with brightness and darkness in the same exposure. This basically means that the darkest object we can see is 50,000 times dimmer than the brightest object we can see. However, the Fuji Velvia film that photographers use has a film latitude of 5! So even when we isolate and consider one minute piece of God’s creation, our efforts to replicate its workings are severely limited in comparison to the Creator’s faculties.
The isolation of the Stigma in this shot shows forth the intricateness and beauty of God’s creation.
And to think that we are created in God’s image and that we are His most splendid creation! What an honour to have been placed above all of God’s creation!
A glimpse of our Father’s creation at dusk (Coalcliff, NSW Australia).
After experiencing the wonders of God’s creation, the Psalmist’s words ring truer than ever before:
“Only the fool says there is no God.” – (Cf. Psalm 53:1)
Pictures by Daniel Hopper, a convert to the Catholic faith, is a lawyer and part-time photographer in Australia. Originally published on the Catholic-Legate.