THIS SHORT book is an enjoyable guide to photography and how it relates to one’s spiritual life. I see myself as an enthusiastic amateur photographer — my primary camera being my smartphone. This book catered perfectly to my needs. For example, at the end of each chapter there are guidelines on using a camera phone for different kinds of photography — including which apps are available to help with editing and creating special effects.
The book takes one of the themes of photography, provides some quick, easy-to-remember advice on photography in that area, and then has some spiritual reflections. Each chapter takes less than ten minutes to read, so the book would work well for personal devotion over a period of weeks or months, or as a creative activity for a small group.
One piece of advice that I shall take from the book is to wait half an hour when you are at a tourist attraction before taking out your camera. This way you are encouraged to look more deeply at the sight — and, ultimately, the photographs you take will be better as well. This advice to slow down is welcome in our “always on” culture. I recently visited Stonehenge, and I wish I had read this book before my trip.
I found one of Richter’s spiritual reflections particularly affecting. In a chapter on “Framing” he refers to the account in Acts of the healing of the beggar at the Beautiful Gate in Jerusalem. If it were a tourist attraction now, Richter muses, how many people would automatically crop out the beggar from their photographs of the gate? The way we frame things reveals a lot about ourselves. This is just one of many insights I found helpful.
Towards the end of the book, Richter turns to spiritual practices, and the Ignatian practice of the examen. I have personally found this a useful exercise — to look back at my photographs over a year, and pick out themes, and highs and lows, reflecting on how I have been with God and others through that time.
This book would make an ideal gift for a friend who loves photography, and will also give them some helpful spiritual direction along the way. It is a welcome encouragement to savour the sacrament of the present moment.
The Revd Bryony Taylor is Assistant Curate of St Michael and All Angels, Houghton-le-Spring, Durham diocese, and the author of Sharing Faith Using Social Media (Grove, 2016).
Spirituality in Photography
Philip J. Richter
Church Times Bookshop £9