Can photography help us see God?

The first picture I remember taking was of a sunset over a baseball field. I was around 11 years old and I shot it with my mom's 110 camera back in the days of flash cubes and Photomats. The last pictures I took was of a U2 tribute band last night at an Irish Fest in Arlington Heights. Between the picture of that sunset and the pictures of Elevation, there are 23 years and 10s of thousands of photos. Maybe having a birthday yesterday caused me to be introspective, but I got to wondering, "why do I keep doing this?" By the end of the night, I remembered why.

Sometimes photography is a transcending experience for me. There are many times when I've lost my sense of time and place while taking pictures. Worries disappear. It's not something I can just call into being like a pizza delivery, it's just something that happens when I'm focusing intensely on taking pictures.

It happened last night under funny circumstances. I'd been on my knees for almost an hour so that I would be the same height as all the small children who were crowded around me at the front of the stage watching Elevation perform. I wasn't raised Catholic, so standing on my knees for that long is NOT something I'm used to. Despite that, and the fact that I was feeling so lazy last night that I almost didn't go, here I was snapping away while singing along at the top of my lungs. When Tere tapped me on the shoulder and said she was ready to go, I realized that I hadn't entertained a single thought the entire time I was shooting, even though I was in a very uncomfortable position.

I don't know if you've ever practiced meditation, but I have, and I find it impossible to let go of all my thoughts unless I'm in a sensory deprivation tank, so the fact that I spontaneously cleared my mind while surrounded by so much distraction is significant to me. What's more significant is that I always come out of those "meditations" with more energy and peace of mind than before I started. I guess it just goes to show that losing yourself in something as common as photography can facilitate the kind of experience that most religions aspire to.

Now if photography can just avoid the fragmentation that organized religion is plagued with. Can you imagine factions of ferocious film photographers fighting to maintain their power against the rise of digital photography? Hey, can't we all just get along?

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