Leaf friends

Leaf friends

Its amazing what you notice when you take the time to see. Alright, maybe you won’t see little fairy people hanging out on a leaf, but still. Choose to enjoy and savor life, even that which is often overlooked. Because … Continue reading

A Resilient Life

Through-out the summer I’ve been reading a book called A Resilient Life by Gorden MacDonald. This is one particular section I found interesting and stirring, followed with some thoughts.
Its somewhat long, but definitely worth the read. :)

Resilient People Foresee the Great Questions of Life’s Passage
[speaking to a group of young adults at a conference]

“I suspect that there are different questions for every age in life, perhaps every decade. Knowing them helps us to deal with people sensitively, and it gives us a better understanding of how to build a larger view of our own lives.

“Remember, you heard it here first,” I concluded. “You won’t he asking the same questions ten years from now that you are asking today.”

When question-and­-answer time came, some asked, “So what are the questions that correspond to each decade?” A few samples occurred to me, but I admitted that I had some homework to do. “I just know that there are questions for every age group, and that they are pretty consistent,” I said.

And here’s the kicker. As the questions change, so does the content (and perhaps the form) of our spiritual interests. “The questions,” I said, “often become our way of approach when we go to the Scriptures looking for spiritual sustenance. They become a guide when we buy books. The questions form our approach to spiritual life. So if the way one does spiritual life was formed around twenty­-something questions and one is now fifty, spiritual life will likely be obsolete and ineffective.”

In each decade of life as the questions change, the Bible reader discerns new insights from the familiar Bible stories or teachings. The themes of prayer also change. The dangers and temptations inherent in the spiritual journey are modified. And in each decade of life, new decisions leading to deepening commitment present themselves. So, knowing the appropriate questions that we are likely to face at the end of the track in each decade of life just might help us become big­-picture thinkers.

When I left the conference at the end of that day, I determined to identify as many of the significant questions that people are asking as they move through the decades of life. I became convinced that if I could do this, I’d know a lot more about big­ picture thinking and resilience.

[at a gathering later on]

As the moments passed, I was struck with how little we know about each other across the generations. And how important it is to understand what questions form the larger picture of another’s life. This is the pathway to resilience: knowing what’s up ahead, what we are likely to face, where the possibilities and the obstacles lie. These people had answers to the questions the worship leaders needed to ask. So I began my pursuit of the great questions that fill in the blanks of so many big pictures.

When I engaged with twenty-somethings, for example, who were just entering the adult years, I found them preoccupied with clarifying their identity. What kind of a man or woman am I becoming, they were likely to wonder, and how am I different from my mother or father? They were asking, Where can I find a few friends who will welcome me as I am and who will offer the family-like connections that I need / or never had? Or, Can I love, and am I lovable? These are relational questions, of course, and I could feel the discomfort of those in their twenties until they get answered. I found fear of rejection, loneliness, and the feeling that one might not fit. No wonder there were so many goings and comings among twenty­-somethings, compelling a person toward one group or another, one friend or another. One needs to find a place, a people to whom one can belong.

The twenties are a time when one asks, What will I do with my life? What is it that I really want in exchange for my life’s labors? Most denied that the key desire of life was for material wealth; the preference was for work that offered significance, a feeling of making a difference. Teaching, counseling, and work in the nonprofit sector were important possibilities. Of course, a bundle of folk said they were quite happy just to land a job – ­any passable job­ – that provides the income base for a reasonably secure life and some fun.

Twenty­-somethings are becoming aware that they can no longer get away with irresponsible or unsocial behavior. Life patterns, habits, and personality quirks need adjustment if one is to get along. So the question, what parts of me and my life need correction? arises.

It is also not surprising that people in their twenties wrestle with the so-called lordship question: Around what person or conviction will! I organize my life? Perhaps this is the mother of all questions (for every age, actually), but it reaches a point of great significance as one comes to the realization that the game of life is no longer the amateur game of the teen years. Now it is a serious matter with increasingly serious consequences, and one must identify an organizing principle that will bring the pieces of life into order. That principle, the Bible­-embracing person believes, is really a person: Jesus Christ­­­ – His saving power, His call, His teachings.

What happens when twenty­s-somethings turn into thirty-somethings? The questions and issues begin to shift. The longer-­range responsibilities of life begin to accumulate, and one’s sense of personal freedom is compromised as more permanent relationships and commitments are made.

Since there is usually an expansion of responsibility and no expansion of time, thirty­-somethings find themselves asking the question, how do I prioritize the demands being made on my life? There are spouses to love and know more intimately, children who need endless amounts of attention, and jobs/careers that absorb energy. Homes must be maintained, bills paid, obligations to organizations met. Suddenly one must budget the yesses and the noes of life, and these decisions are not simply or easily made.

The career options of a person’s life may have seemed clearer and simpler in the twenties. But now, in the thirties, one can begin to see that there are winners and losers, as well as also-­rans (those who simply finish unnoticed in the middle of the pack). And the question forms: How far can I go in fulfilling my sense of purpose?

Because thirty-­somethings are so busy getting life’s routines established, there is little growing realization that one’s primary community is changing. The friends of youth (and even of the twenties) have split, gone off in different directions (some married, some single, many moved on to other parts of the world). And another question arises: Who are the people with whom I know I walk through life?

For many men, the thirties are the beginning of the onset of male loneliness. New male friendships are not easily made nor do they often measure up to the kind of friendships one used to enjoy. Old friends have drifted away; often, new acquaintances simply do not have the time to build the satisfying relationships that were part of the younger years.

Spiritual life changes for people in their thirties. The spiritual questions no longer center on the ideals of youth but on the realities of a life that is tough and unforgiving. There is little time for the long discussions with a mentor, the youth retreats and programs, the times of hanging out that marked earlier days. Now life’s requirements offer little time for contemplation and spiritual revitalization. Most thirty­-somethings who seek a spiritual component to life will tell you that words like empty, tired, confused, and drifting mingle in their thoughts in a way they never expected. Thus these questions materialize: What does my spiritual life look like? Do I even have time for one?

It’s a quiet, nagging question that comes in moments when one feels that he or she has failed. Thirty-­somethings are likely to see things in themselves they thought they might have overcome by now, simply by growing up. But things they once anticipated they would shake off haven’t gone away. And thirty­-somethings find themselves asking, why am I not a better person?

There are new questions that pop up in one’s forties. The complexities of life further accelerate, and this is worrisome­­­­. We begin to recognize that we can no longer fob off our flaws and failures as youthfulness and inexperience. We are, as they say, grown-up. We are expected to handle the bumps and bruises of life with an unshakable courage. Panic and fear are for younger (and older?) people. But in one’s forties, the expectation is that one is solid.

Still … there are questions. As I will illustrate in another part of this book, the question arises, who was I as a child, and what powers back then influence the kind of person I am today? We would have laughed at this question in our twenties, but now it becomes a rather serious one for more than a few.

Why do some people seem to be doing better than I? Why am I often disappointed in myself and others? Why are limitations beginning to outnumber options?

I believe the forties to be dangerous, uncharted waters for a lot of us. Lots of things begin to happen for which many of us are not prepared. Bodies change. Children become more independent, even begin to leave home. Marriages have to be readjusted to face new realities. Some of us begin to enjoy financial leverage; others of us begin to assume that we will never be materially secure. Some give up the fight to achieve lifelong goals and settle into a defensive posture of living. Others miss their youth and its seeming excitement so much that they try going backward to retrieve earlier pleasures.

Forty-­somethings may ask, why do I seem to face so many uncertainties? But others may begin plotting a second life, a second career. What can I do to make a greater contribution to my generation? Or, what would it take to pick up a whole new calling in life and do the thing I’ve always wanted to do? If one listens carefully, he might hear the word trapped used in the questions that now arise.

A few wise forty-­somethings may seek a ninety-­day sabbatical. They will strip their lives down to bare metal and evaluate their life-­journeys to this point. They’ll take a hard look at their spiritual journeys, their personal relationships, their convictions about money and possessions, how they contribute their energies and resources. And when the assessment is over, they will have plotted a whole new course for the second half of life. A very exciting adventure for brave people.

 would often prefer not to think about it, but the fact is that they have moved across life’s middle. Now one finds him or herself wondering how many years are left. The news of friends dying, marriages dissolving, and people moving to places of retirement increases. It can be a time for sober thinking.

John Dean of Watergate fame­-wrote:

My view [of my life] has been backward, not forward … and I have been dwelling on the trivial, on the insignificant too much. Time is running out and I must come to terms with my life. The days for fantasizing great achievements are gone. Ambitions and goals must be realistic if I want to avoid great disappointment at the end.

So those in the fifties may ask, why is time moving so fast? Because it is moving so fast. It seems as if yesterday was Christmas, and tomorrow is Christmas. Go figure! We look at contemporaries and they suddenly look very old to us. Surely we have not aged that much!

Why is my body becoming unreliable? How do I deal with my failures and my successes? How can my spouse and I reinvigorate our relationship now that the children are gone? For those who haven’t reached these questions yet, may I say, “Get ready!” Each will come at you, often without warning. It is worth getting a head start on them.

Who are these young people who want to replace me? It is a frightening moment when one discovers that younger people may know more than I, maybe willing to work longer and harder than I am willing to work, and may be impatient for me to move over and give them the same chance to prove themselves that I once demanded.

What do I do with my doubts and fears? Will we have enough money for the retirement years if there are health problems and economic downturns? These questions loom in our fifties.

The sixty-year-old asks: When do I stop doing the things that have always defined me? Why do I feel ignored by a large part of the younger population? Why am I curious about who is listed in the obituary column of the papers, how they died, and what kinds of lives they lived?

The sixty-­something wonders what is yet to be accomplished, and do I have enough time to do all the things I’ve dreamed about in the past? He or she may not want to admit it, but the question hovers, who will be around me when I die? And, if married, which one of us will go first, and what is it like to say good-bye to someone with whom you have shared so many years of life?

For more than a few, these are the years when doubts and fears may arise in quiet moments. Are the things I’ve believed in capable of taking me to the end? Is there really life after death? What do I regret? And what are the chief satisfactions of these many years of living? What have I done that will outlive me?

Perhaps the seventies and eighties blend together and share several kinds of questions. Now one is curious and asks these things: Does anyone realize, or even care, who l once was? Is anyone aware that I once owned [or managed] a business, threw a mean curveball, taught school, possessed a beautiful solo voice, had an attractive face? Is my story important to anyone?

How much of my life can I still control? they add. Some must stop driving. Others will have to surrender the administration of their finances to a younger person. Many will live in communities where most of life is scheduled for them.

Is there anything I can still contribute? Not everyone wants to sit or simply play. The body may be old, but some of us still want to make a difference. Can we?

Why this anger and irritability? Is God really there for me? Am I ready to face death? And when I die (how will it happen?), will I be missed, or will the news of my death bring relief?

Heaven? What is it like?

As a resilient person lays out his or her life and contemplates it from a long­range point of view, these are the questions for which one might want to prepare. […]

-G. MacDonald

I don’t intend to answer all these questions – at least not right now. While some of them echo through me, others are difficult to apply and thus understand. Yet realizing that many of these questions will rise later on causes me to examine my life now – the posture of my heart and direction I am headed now. Will I invest in the temporary or the eternal? The decisions made today are paving the way to tomorrow. What does my heart desire and seek after?

David expressed this in Psalm 27, ” One thing I have desired and that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon His beauty, and to inquire in His temple.” The Lord also promises that as we “seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,” He will meet all our needs (Matthew 6:33). And as we take delight in Him, He’ll give us the desires of our hearts (Psalms 37:4).

Then I think of a proverb that teaches,” Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you.” And further on we are told to, “keep [our] heart[s] with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” The chapter paints an image of one who has tossed aside of weights of deceitfulness and perversity. Looking straight ahead, she fixes her eyes on what lies ahead. She walks his purpose, dignity and strength. While pondering the path of her feet, she allows all her ways to be established. She removes her feet from sins mucky piles of mud, and continues forward, not turning to the left or right.

Maybe Paul was thinking of that when he said, “Lets rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right  hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

These verses fill my heart with determination – a deep inner resolve to walk each day with surrender and obedience to the Lord – a strong desire to be a wise steward of the time and gifts He’s given. At the same time, I recognize that I am incapable of doing this. Its impossible. So how can one run this race, and finish strong?

A fulfilled life, is a life that is simply at complete rest in the heart of the Father. There is no striving or working to gain His love or acceptance. He already loves us unconditionally, and accepts us now that we are in Christ. So any of my grand determination apart from His presence is empty and futile. His love is so incredible that He gives us the ability to run away or run to Him, and its in His presence that we are fully alive – where our joy is complete. It is in recognizing my own weakness and inability, failure and mistakes, and humbly laying them down at His feet – emptying of myself – that He then comes to fill with His strength and power.

Each step along the way takes persistence; supernatural life infused by the Holy Spirit! The only way we will finish this race strong is by abiding in Jesus. He is the author and finisher of our faith, and He’s already won. “Remain in me, and I will remain in You. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.” (John 15:4)

I heard Sara Groves compare bearing fruit in our lives to being pregnant. The mother simply goes about life, eating, sleeping, caring for her body…and all the while this miracle, this life, is growing within her! I thought that was a beautiful, clear image, and helps me see how silly it is when I strive unnecessarily, trying to make things happen on my own. Sometimes I hold an ideal of how I imagine life should be. Then I try to change myself, change others, and change everything around me. God didn’t call us to change everything…just to love.

We were created by love, into love, to be love. And even when we turned away from Love, He still sacrificed His own Son so that that we’d be redeemed, so that we could draw near to Love again. This is home now. This is where we live from – His presence. His presence changes everything. We are lovers of God, and carriers of His presence.  Paul said that he was “compelled by love.”

Sometimes I have no idea where I am going – where exactly He is taking me. But I’ve experienced His love and faithfulness, and that fills me with a hope I can’t keep inside. This life is so much bigger than me, or what I can see and understand. And leaving a legacy or making an impact here is so much more than making it in a history book. Sometimes the greatest impacts are never heard or seen, only felt by those in the vast ocean ahead as a mysterious ripple. Each time we say “Yes” to the Holy Spirit (big or small), His presence and love is released, transforming the world around us. And anyway I think what I’m trying to say is that the love of God is greater than we can imagine, and that is where everything of substance begins. Everything we say and do that lasts will be an outflow of His unconditional love for us.

It is likely that I’ll need to be reminded of this along the journey. Sometimes I loose sight of the big picture and get caught up in the busy-ness of life. Its okay. God is full of grace and mercy. He knows us deep down to the core. He already knows all the mistakes and failures we’ll make in the next 50 years (and beyond). It won’t surprise Him. It won’t change His love for us or cause Him to give up on us half-way through. Even if we turn away, He’ll continue to pursue us till the end. Knowing that His love is that strong, that faithful, creates a hunger to serve and know Him more and more! God isn’t “tolerating through” this journey with you – He loves it! He is our Heavenly Father who thoroughly enjoys being with us on this adventure, leading us step by step from glory to glory. I do too… :)

Ceramic Necklaces

These pendants were made in ceramics class this spring. Just now getting around to adding the string and clasps. There are a few more on the way, but these for now. It was almost as fun to photograph them – dangling in the wind and light – as it was to make them. :)

You’ll notice a few doors too. They are Italy inspired. <3

Inspiration, where might you be?

“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction…”
– Chuck Close (painter, photographer, printmaker)

These Hands

Often times the posture of our hands can reflect the posture of our hearts. So how are we using our hands today?

To give or take?
Starve or nourish?
Destroy or create?
Reaching for the temporary, or to glorify God?
Are these hands in the place that God’s heart longs to touch in this moment?

Are they caught in a whirlwind of busy work, striving by my own strength?
Or are they surrendered and at rest within the His strong, tender nail-pierced hands?

In Christ we have been declared righteous and whole.
Not by the works of our hands but by faith in Him.
By resting our heart in Him
And our hands in His.

His hands healed the sick,
Touched the blind eyes and restored vision,
Calmed the wild sea,
Held and blessed the children,
Extended love and forgiveness to the condemned.
Then those same hands were nailed to a cross.
For you.
As it was lifted upward,
His hands held the weight of His body,
And the weight all the world’s sin.

Three days later, those same hands were filled with life,
Sin and the grave had been defeated!
Redemption complete!
Vanishing up into the heavens,
He lifted His hands and blessed the people..

Now within His hands we place our own.
Now within His heart we place our own.
We were created to rest in Him,
And at rest in Him, we are most alive!

As I look down at my hands
Made of dust,
I see a physical extension of my heart.
Though weak and imperfect,
Shaped and formed for a greater purpose and plan.

Surrendered hearts are empowered by the life of Christ,
The love of God manifest!

And the longer I look down at these hands,
At my heart,
At my life,
I realize that, really, they are not my own…

Don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20) You have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer you who live, but Christ lives in you; and the life which you now live in the flesh, live by faith in the Son of God, who loves you and gave Himself up for you. (Gal 2:20) Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. (Col 3:3)  Above all else, guard your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.(Prov 4:23)

Thoughts and Questions: Why?

Before going to sleep last night, I wrote some thoughts down in my journal.. not realizing all the magnitude of pain, hurting and questioning that would rise the following morning.. yet the promise still remains. And so I thought I would share this here too. 

Humanity is plagued by questions.

Which makes complete sense, being that we have brains, and there is so much more than we understand…

Yet many of the questions of past years have now disappeared.

They weren’t answered, at least not in the way I expected.

They were forgotten. Discarded. Replaced with different questions.

Maybe many of the questions that  pull at my curiosity now, won’t matter so much later on either..

at least not in the same way.

Because the deeper I come to know God,

The more I see and experience His justice, His grace,

My heart shifts, my frame of mind rearranges…

I realize that it is my own ignorance and pride often serves as a foundation for many of these nagging questions..

And in my foolishness, I place them right in-between myself and the One who fully knows and loves me..

Then suddenly, humbled by His holiness, His beauty, His glory..

I hear the voices of those who continuously fall at His throne, praising Him day and night, saying “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”

In His presence, everything else crumbles.

While there is much that I wonder about, I DO know that my Heavenly Father is a God overflowing with love and grace. His wisdom and understanding is perfect and complete. Not understanding everything, but knowing that the One who does is faithful and good – There’s peace in that place. We can rest in Him.

And the incredible thing is that even when we step away from Him and question, why, why, why..

He is here.

Ready to pour out His love and grace upon the one that says yes, yes, yes, I trust You.

Even when nothing seems to make sense.

We put our hope in the Lord. He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. Let your unfailing love surround us Lord, for our hope is in You alone. (Psalms 33)

Photo Manipulation: ethical?

An interesting look at photo editing over the last two centuries, current differing views, and my thoughts on the topic. Written for an ethics/philosophy class in 2012. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic as well. Please feel free to comment and share your response or reflections. Thanks!

Is it ethical for photographers to edit or alter their photographs? In looking through any magazine, a nature photographer’s gallery, or recent album from a friend’s wedding, it is likely that some, if not all, of these photos have been edited in one way or another. Whether the photographer simply tweaked the color, brightened the sunrise, or pasted a mountain over a garbage pile, one can’t say for sure, but it is possible. A thorough examination of this issue requires that we not only look at arguments for and against it. We must also understand the origin of photography, and attempt to define the role it played then and now.

When photography was invented in the early 1800s, it impacted science, art and culture at large. The camera was a tool that captured a precise, detailed reflection of nature with more accuracy than even the most skilled painter. The photograph was held in high regard as being an honest depiction of reality. It was a proof of something, a picture of “truth.” Its credibility and clarity set it apart from all other art forms. A thousand words could be discounted or confirmed with a simple photograph (Lodriguss).

Shortly after the discovery of this “visual truth” also came “visual fiction,” manipulation carried out in the photo darkroom (Lodriguss). One of the first examples is a photograph of Abraham Lincoln standing by a flag, globe and table of documents. This is actually a composite image of Lincoln’s head carefully pasted over the heroically posed body of another politician, John Calhoun (Connor).

Another photograph, originally thought to be General Ulysses Grant seated on his horse with his troops in the background, is actually a combination of three images: Confederate captives, the horse and body of a fellow general, and lastly, Grant’s portrait. Erasing traces of political enemies from photos was also a common practice of leaders such as Stalin, Hitler and Mao. The media began to manipulate photos to achieve desired images as well. In 1989, the cover of TV Guide featured an image of Oprah Winfrey’s head over the body of actress Ann-Margret (Connor).

At this time it was not a controversy issue, but with the arrival of digital photography and a much greater ease to manipulate with computer software, such as Adobe Photoshop, a greater concern has been expressed by photographers and the public alike. What does this mean for photographers in the 21st century? What standard should be held? Is the integrity of a photographer connected with photo alteration? Is it a crutch for the lazy and unskilled, or a tool to enhance photos? Is it a means for deceit and the portrayal of a distorted, untruthful reality, or to express greater imagination and creativity? Does it effect the value of a photograph? What are the motivations behind those who do and do not use it? Does it have any negative or positive effects of the public or on the artist? These questions address different areas of ethics: truth, integrity and excellence. The debate seems to differ depending on the field of photography as well, whether portrait, landscape, fashion, hobby or photo-journalism.

The LA Times published a photo of a U.S. soldier motioning for Iraqi civilians to find shelter. It was later discovered that this image was a composite. The photo-journalist had taken two similar photos and combined them in order to create a stronger composition (Connor). Was this ethically right or wrong? Is it better that a photo be mediocre but truthful, or aesthetically strong yet untruthful? If this was wrong, where does one draw the line? If editing is acceptable, how can the public know how true or false an image is? One might even argue that the very act of taking a photograph is already subjective and, therefore, incapable of telling a fully truthful story. The photographer chooses an angle, focal length, composition, exposure and timing. Should the aesthetics be a concern during the capturing and processing of an image? If so, how much can an image be changed before it becomes unethical?

 The National Press Photographers Association code of ethics states: “Visual journalists operate as trustees of the public. Our primary role is to report visually on the significant events and varied viewpoints in our common world. Our primary goal is the faithful and comprehensive depiction of the subject at hand. As visual journalists, we have the responsibility to document society and to preserve its history through images.” In 1991 they released a statement declaring that any alteration of a photograph which leads the public to be deceived is wrong (“National Press Photographers Association”).

Though this does not establish a line between photo fakery and photo enhancement, it addresses the issue from an Aristotelian perspective by establishing honesty as a virtue to pursue and accuracy as a principle to follow. Photographers who choose to live by this will use their skills, during capturing and processing, to present the most honest and accurate depiction of a moment.

Utilitarian Ethics could take a stance for or against photo manipulation, depending on the photo and context surrounding it. If the photographer believes that telling the truth and maintaining integrity will bring the greatest amount of good, then altering the content in photos will be avoided. At the same time, although the photo-journalist may be an honest person, he or she is not bound to telling the truth. It would be best to alter the photo if the belief is that the happiness and pleasure coming from this will outweigh the pain or suffering. This may be why some photographers are willing to deceive the public with a false image in order to bring about what they see as a better consequence.

Kantian Ethics would argue against photo manipulation in photo-journalism. Regardless of the intent in making major or minor alterations, it is wrong simply because it is a dishonest act. It deceives the public into believing something that is not true and violates their individual freedom and reason. Some editing might be allowed, such as basic cropping, contrast, brightness, tonal, and retouching adjustments. Anything beyond this, such as altering photo content, color, orientation or cropping in any way that changes the original meaning of the photo would be unacceptable (“Policy for the Ethical Use of Photographs”).

Does the standard change when addressing the area of fine arts photography? Some photographers do not necessarily mind if a photo is edited or unedited, but find it unfair for those who work hard to capture the perfect moment. This would be more of a Kantian argument. Isn’t it only right that they receive credit for mastering their camera skills and being in the right place at the right time? Why climb to a mountaintop to capture a majestic sunset behind a soaring eagle, if another photographer can create a similar image with the use of Photoshop? Can the viewer tell the difference, and would it even matter? Tom Mangelsen, a wildlife photographer, describes the effects of digital manipulation as a “loss of incentive to compete in the wild, the loss of a sense of adventure, the loss of pride in one’s work, and the loss of the public’s respect for wildlife photography” (Brower).

The goal of nature photographer, Christopher Burkett, is to capture and show “something that is precious and real: something that most people do not see.” Viewers are often surprised to find out he does not digitally alter his photos, and tend to value and appreciate them more as a result (Burkett). Does the fact that his photographs are so unbelievable, but very real, make them more compelling? When the virtue of honesty is recognized within an image of high excellence, is the viewer more deeply enriched and impacted? Will this virtue and skill fade away if photographers begin to rely on editing software instead? These concerns seem to be related to Aristotelian ethics, placing excellence and virtue at the forefront.

Lewis Kemper is a nature photographer who travels and teaches workshops on how to use Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. In order to be successful in this profession, he believes it is important to have an understanding of these programs. He has found it not only enables him to produce images closer to reality than possible with film, but is also a means to express greater creative freedom (Kemper). For photographers like Kemper, it seems that photography is more of a platform for the imagination than truth. This might be more of a Utilitarian perceptive, placing more value on the overall consequences.

What stance should photographers and the media take when it comes to editing a photo of a human being? Is it ethical to fix a blinking eye or stray hair? Is it ethical to make minimum enhancements, such as erasing blemishes or whitening the teeth. Even further, how about a “tummy tuck” or changing the body structure or shape? What is the overall purpose of these changes, and is there a point where it becomes unethical?

Self magazine received criticism for an excessively “digitally slimmed down” photo of Kelly Clarkson on their September 2009 cover. The editor defended the criticism, “Photoshopping is an industry standard,” and she explained further in her blog, “Did we alter her appearance? Only to make her look her personal best…But in the sense that Kelly is the picture of confidence, and she truly is, then I think this photo is the truest we have ever put out there on the newsstand” (Beauty Redefined).

Utilitarian ethics could argue that if the goal is to sell merchandise and increase business, it does not matter if a person is edited a little or beyond recognition. Clothing brands are not responsible for the body image they are portraying, or any unintended result that it brings to the public, as long as they stay true to the merchandise they are advertising. If creating an unnatural ideal appeals to the public and attracts customers, then the end justifies the means. It might be asked further, though the economy experiences immediate positive consequences, does this really produce the greatest good for the greatest amount of people?

How is this “industrial standard” body image effecting individuals and society as a whole? Kantian Ethics would point out that it is unfair and disrespectful for those whose bodies are being altered as well as to those who may feel pressured to meet this standard. These images distort the public’s perception of what is healthy, normal and beautiful. As people compare, strive and pursue to meet this impossible standard, self-esteem drops and eating disorders are developed. Clothing brands like Ann Taylor and Ralph Lauren have recognized and apologized for going too far during the retouching process, yet continue to repeat this mistake (Beauty Redefined).

Imagine a photographer handing you Polaroid images of yourself after a photoshoot and saying, “Don’t worry – we’ll retouch them.” Actress Aisha Tyler has heard these words and raises a challenge, “How flawless should skin be? First you remove a freckle…and next thing you know the person’s face looks like a department store mannequin’s” (“Glamour” 172-175). Every person should be an end in and of themselves, not as a means to anything else. In this pursuit of perfection, it seems that the humanity, the essence of life within that body, is forgotten.

Aristotelian Ethics would remind the photographer that “natural” is the goal and “balance” is the key. A photographer who does choose to use Photoshop should strive to develop those skills in order to do it with excellence. Excessive editing may indicate a lack of skill and unfamiliarity with these editing programs. The surface of the human face is not plastic, but rather, has texture and visible pores. If acne is removed from a face, it should be done in way that is subtle and still natural.

This is the standard of many commercial portrait photographers. Whether it be senior, engagement or family photos, photographers want to capture the life and natural beauty of their clients. Editing software is a tool that can be used to make basic enhancements as well as correct inconveniences that may be present on the day of the photoshoot. Blinking eyes can be opened. Crooked ties can be be straightened. Scratches and bruises can be removed. Stray hairs can be erased. In the end, the photographer aims to give clients real and natural photos that represent who they are at their best.

Kristina and Christine
Brock & Amber
Images by Laura Nerness Art & Photography

In conclusion, I see the film darkroom and photoshop as tools which can be used or abused, depending on the situation, purpose and context. When deciding whether or not it is ethical to alter a photograph, or how far it will be altered, the photographer should first ask, “Why was this photo taken? How or where will be used? What is my motivation for altering it?” If for documentary, “Can it be edited while still remaining true to its original meaning and message?” If for nature or wildlife, “ Is my goal to represent a true depiction of reality, or to express creativity, imagination and greater aesthetic appeal? And does the public know this, or will this lead to the viewer’s deception concerning my photography skills or something I photographed in nature?” In fashion or portrait photography, “Do I have the permission of the person I am editing? Will this disrespect their individuality or devalue who they are? Where will this photo be used and how will it be viewed?” If used within the context of honesty and excellence, it can be a very creative, helpful and beneficial tool.

Joy In The StormMatt & Kelli
Images by Laura Nerness Art & Photography

Works Cited

Brower, Kenneth. “Photography in the Age of Falsification.” Atlantic Monthly. 281.5 (1998): n. page. Web. 24 Jan. 2012.

Burkett, Christopher. In Certain Light Interview by John Paul Caponigro. View Camera Magazine. Web. <http://www.christopherburkett.com/pages/articles/certainlight.html

Connor, Kevin. “Photo Tampering throughout History.”Fourandsix Technologies, Inc.. N.p., 2012. Web. 24 Jan 2012. <http://www.fourandsix.com/photo-tampering-history/

“I Don’t Want to Be Perfect!.” Glamour. Sep 2005: 172-175. Print.

Kemper, Lewis. Lewis Kemper Talks Nature Photography, Photoshop, and The Photography

Business Interview by Charlie Borland. Pronature Photographer, 12 Dec 2011. Web. <http://www.pronaturephotographer.com/2011/12/lewis-kemper-talks-nature-photography-photoshop-and-the-photography-business/

Lodriguss, Jerry. “The Ethics of Digital Manipulation.”Catching the Light. N.p., 2006. Web. 24 Jan 2012. <http://www.astropix.com/HTML/J_DIGIT/ETHICS.HTML

National Press Photographers Association. N.p., 2012. Web. 26 Jan 2012. <http://www.nppa.org/

“Photoshopping: Altering Images and Our Minds!.”Beauty Redefined. N.p., 11 Nov 2011. Web. 24 Jan 2012. <http://www.beautyredefined.net/photoshopping-altering-images-and-our-minds/

“Webster University Journal.” Policy for the Ethical Use of Photographs. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Jan 2012. <http://www.webster.edu/~barrettb/journal_ethics.html

Open Book; Blank Page

The sky has been pouring down a strange mixture of rain and ice most of today, making indoors the most wonderful, dry place to be. So as the lightening flashes and thunder rumbles out my window, it’s time for some warm cappuccino and writing. :)

The Open Book

The wind seems to be blowing the pages of life forward rather quickly.. I am often caught between this tension of wanting to gaze back at yesterday and step forward into tomorrow. Flipping though past pages… Sorrows. Joys. Trials. Restoration. Change. Growth. Ultimately beautiful. I love to reminisce and reflect, which is valuable, but it can’t be forgotten that this day, this moment, will soon be yesterday. Will it be embraced or tossed to the side? The pen is touching the paper now. And how are we responding to the potential of this blank, open page?

Faith. Are there any limits to the heart that completely trusts God?  He transforms this story into an adventure of discovery and joy. There is no place for boring when walking with the one who loves us and created us with purpose. And there is too much ahead to just stay where we are, within boundaries of comfort and convenience. As we surrender and rest in Him, His grace empowers us to step forward into the impossible and the unknown with boldness. Faith. But how will this chapter end? How will the story unfold 50 chapters from this page? I am curious of all this, but really the details aren’t necessary. Faith. It’s enough knowing the author. His ridiculously extravagant love. His promises. His faithfulness. He’s here. He’s good.

God is not just a part of this story, but rather the very life of it. Our grand accomplishments, treasures and people we know can never bring real joy and satisfaction. The story will still be dry, directionless and empty. This is real life: Knowing Jesus. He fills each line with substance, value and purpose! When He holds the pen, we find that each day gets better than the last, simply because we are coming to know Him more and more! His eyes twinkle with excitement at the turn of each page, “Come, take my hand, you won’t believe what’s ahead! This is only the beginning. There is so much more!” Even in weakness and inability, His strength rises and fills us. Darkness may overshadow pages, even chapters, but God remains as our constant light and guide. He leads us into victory even if everything seems to be falling down around us.  And there is always more to the story than what we see on the open page.

After the last page of our life here is turned, the book will close, but the story continues on.. we will see our Father face to face in all His fullness! Once again we’ll hear His familiar voice, inviting us to come, “This is only the beginning, take my hand, there is so much more!” And the best part is, this story really has no end..

Conversations & Words

Within minutes of a conversation with a new acquaintance, it is often apparent who or what is at the center of their heart. Words come from the overflow of our hearts…and our words will either bring life or death. While some conversations challenge and encourage, others simply suffocate and drain. What are you speaking? How are you speaking? What is your aim? Does your conversation reflect a heart searching for pleasure, success, approval or love? Can people see the presence and love of God in your life, or do they hear an endless list of self-centered commentary? These are questions that God often asks to check my heart..

It is the heart that rests in the love of our Heavenly Father that brings life when it speaks. There is no striving to impress or gain the approval of man here, but rather to serve and love. This heart finds all joy and satisfaction in God, and then spills out to all who come near. This heart knows that he or she stands fully approved by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. And now this heart carries His presence and brings LIFE when it speaks! It doesn’t condemn or bring shame, but rather draws out the gold, and gives grace to all who hear.  It sees beyond the surface problems of the body and soul, and addresses the core, the heart. Truth is spoken with boldness. Fear is not a factor worth considering when walking with our Daddy. (Who also created the universe.. who raises the sun above the horizon each morning …who conquered death and the grave …yup, Him. )
This heart is alive, and is a light.

It’s by faith in Jesus that we can draw near to God and rest in His embrace. He is our delight. He is our success. As we see ourselves the way that God sees us – His sons and daughters – accepted and loved – then our perspective changes. Our vision changes. Our words change. Simply said,  if we place ourselves on the throne of our hearts, our words and lives will only lead to death, and bring death. But if Christ reigns on the throne of our hearts, He will fill us with eternal life, and we will release that life wherever we go. And whether it be through words, or maybe just silence, God’s presence is enough. So much more than enough. He is everything!

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.. (Eph 4:6)