Tag Archives: B & W

Context

DSC00080This is Rudy. Obviously, he was ecstatic to have his picture taken. I have always enjoyed photography but recently my interest has narrowed to focus more on street photography. Since I will be doing more traveling in the near future, I wanted to learn how to creatively capture the people, culture, architecture, landscape and even animals that I encounter. I am definitely not a professional but have enjoyed learning a new technique and creative perspective. One of my favorite street photo blogs is by Eric Kim. He has a depth of knowledge and shares it in a down-to-earth way.

Classic photojournalism is shot from a 35mm perspective. There is a reason the old film rangefinders would come standard with a fixed 35mm lens often with a max 1.8 aperture. It was unassuming, fast and able to capture people in the context of their natural environment. I am currently using a 30mm f2.8 pancake lens attached to a compact mirrorless body for my street photography. It’s the closest I could come to a small 35mm given my limited parameters of size and budget.

It’s easy to get caught up with the equipment but in the end it always comes down to the image. How can you capture your environment in a way that is both accurate and memorable? For a very brief time, I was interested in shooting landscapes but lost interest in capturing backdrops without people. After having children, I was interested in shooting close-ups and portraits. But again, over time I lost interest because cute faces are nice but eventually I wanted to remember the circumstances surrounding the photo. What makes street photography unique is that it records people in context. Context is vitally important. Without it, we fail to capture the moment because life doesn’t unfold in a vacuum.

Take for example, Rudy. His face is very ordinary but captured in full context, it makes for a more meaningful picture. He’s tightly tethered to his owner’s chair on a busy street where no one’s paying attention to him. No wonder he looks that way!

RudyContext is key not only for photography but also for growing in love. Love always has a context. This may not sound profound, but it is for me. Subconsciously, I assumed growing in love happened instantly and quietly, almost in private. That if I simply asked God to make me more loving, he would somehow pour “love juice” in me and “tada!,” I’d be instantly compassionate. But love rarely develops that way. It forms within a tapestry of people and relationships. More specifically, it mushrooms in the tension and conflict of these relationships.

If a tender heart is my prayerful desire, then the Father will often allow me to be in relationships where love is not natural or easy. This is not limited to my enemies but most often includes my closest friends. No matter how good the relationship is, eventually there will be tension. Suffering in relationships is love’s context. At times, my contexts have included, adoption, marriage, fatherhood, pastoring, sonship, brotherhood and friendship.

This paradox makes love feel awkward. The harder things get, the more I realize how loving I am not. The more I realize this, the more discouraged I get. The more discouraged I get, the more frustrated I get that God is apparently not answering my prayer. Yet, it is when I finally come to the end of myself that I truly begin to beg for God’s love to flow through me. Owning my inability is an invitation for God’s love to slowly fill the deep voids of my heart with that which I lack desperately. Surprisingly, it’s just when I think my heart is hopelessly wilted that God’s love sprouts from the ashes of my scarcity.

This shouldn’t surprise us. God’s love for us was not sealed in a Heavenly vacuum. The context of the Father’s love was the pain of this broken world. God became flesh and dwelt among us. He lived with us. He suffered like us. He died for us. So if we want to love like He does, then why wouldn’t our path be similar to his? Why wouldn’t it include suffering, sacrifice and surrender? This is the way of the gospel. It is the shape of love.

What I appreciate about street photography is that every day life is the backdrop. Rather than a clouded studio background, street photography captures people in everyday settings. While it is nice to have photos of birthdays, weddings and trips to Disneyland, those moments are not what fills out most of life. Street photography forces us to stop and remember the unique gifts of the ordinary in life. In that case, every moment can be a special occasion worth capturing.

Because love bubbles up in the affairs of daily irritations and annoying conflicts, growth can happen anywhere and anytime. All of life can be the context for God’s love to grow in you. In fact, in the most trying seasons, growth can be subversively continuous. No wonder it’s so exhausting! If you’re currently in one of those seasons, remember what may feel like a problem may very well be God’s answer to your prayers. Rather than fight it, instead embrace it. It might be the context of love God has tailored just for you.

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