What's In A Name

An Emerging Spiritual Discipline

Several years ago a group of us interested in photography started to meet to learn the craft better. Sometimes we reviewed technical stuff (what's a f-stop anyways?). Sometimes we would collaborate on taking pictures for our next website edition. We playfully called ourselve the Photo B----s as a way not to take ourselves too seriously. But over time we started noticing that taking pictures and reflecting on our lives through the lens of a Christ-informed spirituality went together. Maybe it was time for a new name to reflect this shift of emphasis. Perhaps a name like Watershed Ikonography better reflects how we want to reflect God's image in the world.

Admittedly our new moniker is less spicy and homey than our original 'Photo-B's'. Our new name shows an expansion of our hobby to include others, online and off, who may not be as clued into our in-house guttural humour. Maybe we could look at the name change as "Photo B's all-grows-up and ready to be taken out." It reflects our desire to include others in our love of light, images and creation.

Watershed Ikonography anchors our group to the mission of Watershed in order to shine a spiritual light on our photography. That is why the word 'ikonography' seems right. The greek word for image is 'ikon'. The Apostle Paul used this word to define the relationship between God and Christ. Christ is the expressed image of God, the imprint of God in human form. Had Paul lived today he might very well have used the word to say Christ is the photograph of God in human form. There certainly are some pretty interesting aspects of Christology contained in that image that we might keep in mind for later.

Paul most likely cribbed his icon image from the book of Wisdom. Had he done so, it brings the word ikon even closer to photography. Subject-wise photography replicates nature in all her forms. Nature, yes, but nature drawn in through a lens coupled with a vision of the one taking the shot. There is something wise about this. It implies not raw nature but nature interpreted. After all, according to Israelite mythology Wisdom played and participated in creating the world from the very beginning.

I was there when he established the heavens, when he marked out the horizon on the deep sea, when he thickened the clouds above, when he secured the fountains of the deep, when he set a limit for the sea, so the water couldn't go beyond his command, when he marked out the earth's foundations. I was beside him as a master of crafts. I was having fun, smiling before him all the time, frolicking with his inhabited earth and delighting in the human race. (Proverbs 8:27-31)

I am drawn to the fact that Wisdom was having fun as she participated in the creation not unlike the fun we have when we set up a shot or see something humorous out of the corner of our eye. Seeing as Wisdom does brings light and insight into our world. Maybe our photography can be seen as a vocation that shares in Wisdom's fun and vision. Wisdom is described as a mirror in the book by her name:

She's the brightness that shines forth from eternal light. She's a mirror that flawlessly reflects God's activity. She's the perfect image of God's goodness. (Wisdom 7:26)
You might notice that Wisdom and Christ have been called by the same name, the image of God. As you and I participate not only in the fun of photography but also in the spiritual roots of image-making, we participate in a spiritual vision mediated through Christ and Wisdom.

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