What Do You See in the Photo?

We’ve all seen photographs.  We’ve taken them.  We’ve hung them on the walls and put them in scrapbooks.  We have boxes of them in the attic and thousands of them on our hard drives.  They are a part of our lives.  I’ve been taking photographs for a while now and recently had the opportunity to chronicle my spiritual journey that directed me chaplain residency.  The amazing piece to this project was the fact that when I put together my presentation, I was able to pull artwork from photos I’d taken.  I used photos that were years old, yet still managed to use them to chronicle my life.  I was speechless.   I look back through the thousands in my hard drive and can see my life being lived through them.  There were tears in my eyes.

Have you ever looked at a photograph and saw one thing, then as time went by you saw something completely different?  The photo painted a different interpretation?  I wonder why that is.  Maybe it’s experience and where we are on the journey that gives us this review of life found in the threads of a photograph.

The above photograph does that for me.  I took it last month while vacationing in the Outer Banks.  It’s the Bodie Island Lighthouse at sunrise.  I wanted a photograph of the lighthouse and the sunrise together, which are beautiful reminders of God’s grace.  Over the past few weeks though, the photograph has told a different story.

When I look at the photo, I know what it is. It’s the silhouette of a lighthouse and the keeper’s home.  A silhouette allows for this shadow, this outline of an object to hide the characteristics and full image of what the object is.  This shadow leaves an impression of darkness.  On this side you see the dark and even despair.  You know the outer layer of the character but you don’t know what’s going on inside.  In a way, it’s a picture of sadness and uncertainty.  What’s going on beyond the silhouette?  We don’t know because there is no expression, no description, no characteristic of what is beyond our view.

I want to see the other side of this photo. What is it that I’m searching for? My fascination with light and dark is creeping in again.  I see the dark of the lighthouse, however I know there is another side.  Imagine with me walking around the tower to the other side of where we are standing now.  Come along.  I know on the other side of this photo there is a treasure waiting to be opened. The sun is rising and it’s rays will glisten ever so gently on the character that we are about to meet.  Yes, there is darkness now. It’s inevitable and comes with the territory.  But as the world revolves, the sun will rise and that light will appear on the other side.  Imagine what you will see as the sun finds it’s way onto the horizon.  The life of the lighthouse will come into being and you will see new birth of a gentle soul shining through the eyes of her heart.

There is one thing I cannot deny.  The darkness is hard, but there is beauty that comes from within. We don’t see it yet but we know there is something happening. There is something growing from within the depths of a soul looking to see the light shine on the other side.  There is life in the darkness and it contains a unique beauty that we can’t appreciate until we are able to see it from a the other side. We can look for the pulse that carried us in (and through) the darkness, or we can turn the other way and never see what happened when we were in the dark.

When I took this photo, I thought it was beautiful and never imagined finding a different image within the one I stared at for so long.  The darkness can be stunning because it will allow the experience to be all the more meaningful once you see how life happens in the midst of the shadows.  I’m grateful for the journey.

What do you see in the photo?

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One Response to What Do You See in the Photo?

  1. Heather Royle says:

    I needed to hear this today, although you wrote it weeks ago. Thank you, what a blessing you, your writing and photography are! I’m so happy to call you friend!!

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