Seeing the picture is only a part of being a photographer. Good photographers recognize they are more than just “picture takers”. They are also storytellers. However storytelling is the less thought-of component in photography. After you have seen the story the next step is deciding how you want to tell the story. Writers would call this developing the story. It is the part of your creative process that determines how your picture will convey the story. Some of the greatest visual storytellers convey the story without words but there have also been some great verbal storytellers who have the ability to paint pictures with their words so that every reader “sees” exactly what they are writing about.
Jesus was a masterful story teller. He told His stories in parables based on scenes from everyday life- planting gardens, working in vineyards, baking bread, commerce and trades, and the way nature works. Some of Jesus’ greatest stories came from the Galilee region as He traveled around teaching and preaching in its villages and towns. Like the itinerant teachers of His day, Jesus traveled around the Galilee region and wherever He went, He attracted quite a crowd. In fact Luke tells us that if the people heard Jesus was in the area they would travel to see Him. But Jesus understood His followers. He knew that many of them enjoyed listening to Him but they didn’t HEAR Him, that is, they did not truly understand what He was talking about. So Luke takes note that Jesus “spoke in parables”.
Parables are short, pithy stories that convey a spiritual truth usually by way of an illustration. In Luke 8:1-15 Jesus draws His story out of the scenery surrounding his audience. He tells the story of a sower who has stepped into his garden to plant some seeds. When we read these well-known verses we tend to picture the kind of garden we are familiar with but those images, although they may seem to fit the bill, are not correct. The garden in Jesus’ story would have looked more like this. Imagine a property that is set on a hillside and you now have a good idea of the land in the Galilee region. As a gardener the difficulty of balancing yourself on the side of a hill to grow and harvest your crop would compel you to come up with a better, less slanted way to garden. Enter the process of terrace gardening. Tiers are carved into the hillside with a path along the edge of each tier enabling you to walk along the path to sow your seeds- easy breezy! Now you get the “picture” of the sower in Jesus’ parable. He is walking along the path of his terrace garden tossing the seeds to the left and right. We have to imagine it in our minds what this looked like but Jesus’ audience could see it right before their eyes. They couldn’t miss the picture in the parable, but only the spiritually attentive would be able to understand its application (Lk. 8:8-10).
As it is with parables and faith, seeing is an integral part of a picture’s story. With parables it is the art of seeing the spiritual truth embedded in the illustration. With faith it is the art of seeing beyond the physical world and understanding the spiritual world behind it (Mt. 13:16; Heb. 11:1). In photography the art of seeing involves first seeing what the photographer saw and then seeing it for yourself as you look at his/her picture. If you’re in a gallery and looking at pictures by briskly walking past them you will never see the story or the mindset of the photographer who took it. You will be just like the crowds who came to listen to Jesus but never really heard Him. But if you stand in front of the picture and look carefully at how the storyteller took it, you will gain understanding of both your world and the world of the artist. You will see their compassion, their interest, their humor, their attention to detail, and the things that move them. Seeing and understanding the story of a picture is the same as having “ears to hear” the truth of Jesus’ parables. So, how is your eyesight?
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
https://www.annhlefevre.com; Olivetreeann@mail.com; https://www.linkedin.com/in/annhlefevre; https://www.facebook.com/ann.h.lefevre