More and more we are becoming a visual people, what once passed for a news article, or any kind of writing, could be understood without any images. Now, it seems that images are more important, or at least as important as the written part of the story. The images are what we first look at, and then the writing. Advertising texts have become more and more terse with a stronger emphasis on images.
Even in worship settings, there is more and more emphasis on visual stimulous. Though, historically this has always been the case with stained glass windows, paintings and statuary. But most of the images were aimed at teaching those who could not read the stories and messages of the faith. Now we are using the images to reach those who can read, but whose understanding is more focused on images.
And a side result, it seems to me, is that we are losing our own grasp of living and moving our lives more and more onto the world of images. The rise of selfies, the home videos, photo shoots, it is all a way to make us feel more alive, yet in fact it is moving us from live to simply an image on a screen or paper. The understanding of relationship in images is interesting, to have pictures of the relationship somehow makes it more real, looking at them, making the images, and finding ways to display them all take away from the actual time of being together with someone. It is important to have images, to remember the past, to hold onto who we are, where we have been and to honor such with an image. But, it is my perception that the effects of television and movies, the internet and more accessible photographic technologies have made the reality of images seem more real than the actual moments lived that are to be captured on film.
I have been trying to learn to be a better model, to have my picture taken more effectively. This has arisen after looking at my picture, as a priest, in some wedding pictures. I have come to see that the more I am able to simply be the priest and able to take better pictures, than the more the viewer will notice the bride and groom and not me – this is the way it should be. But in learning to have my picture taken I am also learning to be more present in the living of my life and enjoying of the moment that is happening, and if the picture is taken than fine, if not then that is fine as well. But there is a desire to discover myself, that has emerged in the relationship with having my picture taken. I am seeing myself for the first time, or in ways I never knew before. It is cathartic and it is enlightening, and it is exciting. But it can become quickly more an end in itself that a tool for self discovery. And this, too, is a part of the growing understanding of life through images. Having the picture taken and thinking of how to take it, how to arrange it etc. all becomes an experience that adds identity and excitement, but there is also a let down, after the picture has been taken and days go by. Somehow the moments that were without pictures seem to age better in my mind than those with a picture. In fact soon the picture becomes the memory and not the moment.
There are unintended blessings, epiphanies and opportunities that have emerged with the increased and enhanced technologies of image making. There are also dangers and drawbacks that are also emerging, some of these might in fact be steps backwards and not advances for our souls and minds.