Monday, October 28, 2019

A Moving Picture, Not a Snapshot

This photo from atop the city hall makes Rothenburg ob der Tauber,
Germany look like a fairytale village.
Besides writing, one of my favorite pastimes is photography. It started in college. After taking one course in photojournalism my senior year, I was awarded a graduate teaching assistantship – in photojournalism. I would complement what the professor taught about taking photos: things like composing a photo, cropping through the view finder, focusing, depth of field, panning (following a moving object), etc. I even showed students how to load film in their cameras. (Yes, it was way back then, in the pre-digital days.) Then I’d instruct on how to develop their film, then print their own black-and-white photos. Voila!

At first I wondered why, being relatively new to photography, I was assigned to assist with the photojournalism curriculum. In retrospect, I realized a great way to learn a craft is by teaching it. This became a great asset, since the community newspapers I would work on required the editor to also serve as the photographer. I did this, too, as a magazine editor. My journalistic credo became, “Have camera, will travel.” 

I've often wondered what these workers
in Budapest, Hungary were looking at.
Over the past 50-plus years, the tally of photos I’ve taken can only be described as “countless.” For instance, on my first trip to Europe – in the pre-digital camera days – I departed with 20 rolls of film; two weeks later I returned with more than 50. And I “shutter” to think of the cameras I’ve worn out.

Yet, I’ve rarely done video photography. It’s almost always been still photos, aiming to capture the perfect image, whether of a family member, an event, or beautiful scenery. I’ve just regarded it as a preference, even though taking videos has become much easier with digital cameras. But a speaker’s comment caused me to ponder “why not video?” more deeply.

Crawford Loritts observed, “Life is a moving picture, not a snapshot.” This struck me as profound, considering the thousands of snapshots I’ve taken over my lifetime. So, what’s the difference?

With a snapshot – whether it’s a scenic spot we come across while traveling, an image from a birthday party or sporting event, a posed shot of loved ones, or even a selfie – we can be very selective. We can reshoot if necessary to get the very best picture we can. With digital technology, if we don’t like a photo, we can discard it, or delete it from a memory card.

Skills and expertise required for video imagery are very different from still photography, and videos capture the complete range of expressions, not just the pretty smiles. There’s lots of unnecessary “footage,” stuff to edit out for maximum impact. A video might catch us at our best – but also at our worst.

Life’s like that, isn’t it? Along with the exhilarating, mountaintop experiences we revel in and eagerly share with others, there’s lots of mundane stuff we endure. There’s the pain and struggle no one wants to have represented in an album or photobook. We want people to see only the best of our best. On social media we want to display our highlights – but not our low-lights.

However, we all know that real life isn’t non-stop euphoria. That’s why James 1:3-4 admonishes us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Life’s going to serve up tough times, like it or not. We can either deal with them in positive ways, seeking to learn and grow from them – or can resist them, seeking to conceal them like dirty laundry.

Speaking of which, snapshots usually our happy-happy, got-it-all-together sides. But the moving pictures of our lives include flaws, warts, all the bad stuff we don’t want anyone to see. But we can take heart in knowing that no one’s immune to flaws and warts. As Romans 3:10 asserts, “There is no one righteous, not even one.” Later in the same chapter we’re reminded of the reality, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

In a travelogue, the images we see represent the beauty of a city or region. We don’t see the impoverished areas, the crumbling buildings. It’s all snapshots – or strategically edited videos. When I traveled to Monterrey, Mexico, the hillside barrios weren’t in the travel brochures. Nor were the favelas of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Only the pretty scenery. But in reality, they were there.

Everyday life comes at us raw, unedited. A candid mix of the bad with the good. That’s why, ultimately, we need a Savior. We can’t clean up our own act. We need someone to do it for us. The good news is, Someone has. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 declares,“God made him (Jesus Christ) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” In Christ, our moving pictures can be just as impressive as our snapshots.

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