whole: day 21

We must reverse our lenses.

Too often we have allowed them 

to lead us into a dark past.

Looking through the right

end, we see how that dawn

had the brightness of flowers.

It is the future is dark

because one by one

we are removing these paintings

from our exhibition.  We walk

between blank walls, scrawled

over with the graffiti

of a species that has turned its gaze

back in, not to discover 

its incipient wings, but the slime

rather and the quagmire from which

it believes itself to have emerged.

from’ A.D.’, R.S. Thomas

My family are pretty familiar with my moans and groans when I am working with my Canon 7D camera, as I try to work out how to overcome technical difficulties when faced with my own limitations of craft-knowledge and of health.  I often voice a version of Wittgenstein’s frustration when he exclaimed: “How hard I find it to see what is right in front of my eyes!” 

How hard I find it to see 

what is right in front of my eyes

Seeingdarkly and knowingdarkly are part toolkit, part process, part deliberate limiting factors for a contemplative photographer.  They are the tools by which I look for God in the middle of my everyday life.  They are also the reasons why I miss comprehending God’s presence in the middle of my everyday life.  The darkly Spirit of God-in-me calls me to co-create with God, in the great task of completing, wholing, God.  Being inadequately attuned to the darkly Spirit of God is what limits my creativity.

Incarnational seeing through the way of darkly might be understood as being related to the via negativa, or negative theology, which understands God by the ways in which God is absent rather than present.   Yet what my own experience of seeingdarkly and knowingdarkly suggests, is that God-with-me in my everyday world is more often glimpsed, by Grace, as ‘incipient wings’, to use R.S.Thomas’s image from ‘A.D.’ (above).  Whether or not I manage to ‘succesfully’ make an image, the GodSpark wholes me through the actions of co-creating: my eyes are wholed – healed – the more I look through the Spirit’s darkly lenses.

What has become clearer to me now is that photography was probably always being driven by a search for belonging. What I was so desperately trying to see through photography, was my oneness with Life. 

… For a long time I had assumed, naturally enough, that photography was about the making of images. However I now see how my concern with the end product, (the pleasure and excitement involved in producing a good print), had the capacity to obscure my appreciation of the fact that, for me at least, a deeper pleasure was to be found in the looking; in the way in which the camera drew me into contemplation. 

… The camera acted as a conduit, opening a way of being which is regardless of time. It’s almost as if, through the lens, “I” merge with a fourth dimension, which is, actually, nothing other than self-forgetfulness … It is, as the photographer Annie Leibovitz has observed: “The camera makes you forget you’re there. It’s not like you are hiding but you forget, you are just looking so much.”

 … Absorbed at source, being and doing are one. Whatever role photography has played in my life in the past, it is now being dissolved in the radiant source-being which we all are. This I know; more than this I am content not to know. 

Zoe White (2019)


not hiding but forgetting. (iPhone image)

Published by Kate Kennington Steer

writer, photographer and visual artist

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