Back in July this year our team was beginning our first ‘field-trip’ location in India. This was the time to put what we’d learnt about photography to practice, to add experience to our theory. That first month I was booming with enthusiasm and the drive to take photo upon photo. I felt creative and ambitious and I really did take a whole heap of pictures. As I grow more familiar with my camera, I’m also slowly starting to learn the art of not taking photos. Just as you can communicate worth to someone by noticing them, hearing their context and taking their photo, at other times you can insist that you see their dignity by putting the camera down.
We spent the last two days staying at a village orphanage. How we could serve this orphanage wasn’t communicated very clearly, but we’ve seen in the past it pay off when we prayerfully commit to going something vague and so we decided to go. Unlike the other ministries we’ve volunteered for recently, we arrived to hear that the pastor of the orphanage didn’t really need any photos to be taken. Honestly, it felt bizarre for someone to hear we were photographers and to not ask us to take some pictures! Instead, he himself wanted to learn how to use his camera so that he can take the photos himself that his organization will need, as well as for the children to learn too. With the kids it was such fun to teach photography to a group of people who don’t have cameras and some of whom perhaps never will. We spoke of the practice of noticing beauty around us, being aware of moments that are worth capturing and remembering, observing where light floods into a room from. As a team we split up with our cameras and each walked with a group of the kids and let them lead the way to the photos that they wanted to take. They framed the photos and chose when to capture what was happening – I was so impressed and encouraged by them.
I found it really refreshing to serve a place without needing to use my camera, to relate to someone without the awareness that photos needed to be taken. And so, as I learn within this Track how to manipulate my camera to take the photos that I want it to, I’m also learning when to put the camera down and to be fully present in a place. It’s an art I’m happy I’ll have more time to practice throughout the next year or so.