Friday, December 2, 2011

Art - photography and writing - as truth

After the grape harvest - Tuscany
This morning I've been thinking about writing as art, and how art either gets in the way of - or enhances - truth.
My thinking is emerging from two sources. When I say "is emerging" I mean right now, in real-time, because I tend to think out loud as a write; this blog is not fine-tuned nor is it reviewed and edited:
  • First - and this has been buzzing around inside my head all week - was a message I received in response to one of my blogs. Essentially, the communique was a complaint that my writing was too positive, and that reality is not always so endearing. Implicit in the missive was the idea that it's my responsibility to consider that fact that many people are lonely, depressed, disillusioned etc., and I should write according to that reality if I presume to speak to a wide audience.
  • The second prong of this thought process is the reason I'm late with this posting today. I've been sorting through my pictures from the Italy trip, and I am completely overwhelmed with the beauty of the images.

Coastal town of Portavenere
REALITY? OK. Initial thoughts. First, are my photographs of Italy real, or are they art? The answer is, "Yes." I capture images directly through the lens of my camera and I don't "photoshop". But, I do use a discerning eye and I do employ my gift as an artist to determine composition, beneficial lighting, perspective, lens selection and more. I also know how to capture an image that tells a story rather than merely records a scene.

My pictures are, quite often, more compelling than those taken at the same place and at the same time by other people. They are the exact truth, but it is the truth as recorded by my eye and interpreted by my heart.

JOURNALISM: Back to the writing. First, if you read me with any regularity at all, you already understand that I don't sugar-coat, I don't avoid difficult subjects, and I don't pretend there is no pain in this world. I write about life as it happens to me and those I love. In fact, to use the language of photography, I capture an image the best I can and then I record it.
Writing - and especially if you are also a journalist - is the art of capturing the moment. Recently, my experience has been filled with such moments as:

  • Naomi, David, Hudson... story
    Meeting my first grandchild

  • An epic trip to Italy

  • The tragic death of a friend

  • Celebrations with the vibrant faith community my wife, Rebekah, leads

  • Adventures with my son

  • Some of the best food on the planet

  • Thanksgiving around the table with family and friends

  • The opportunity to share hope and promise with hundreds if not thousands of people

  • And a daily walk with God that is only this real because I make the conscious choice to engage it every day...

What happens to a writer is "life". What a writer types into a manuscript is - or has the potential to be - "art".

ICE ANGEL: Finally (although this discussion could go on to become book-length!), this week I asked the men in my small group to share a moment when they experienced something real with God. One of them said, "When I was at an ice-sculpture exhibit and I saw a huge block of ice shaped like an angel."

What Dave encountered was art; but it was also truth. It was the truth about his own experience of God - something the artist wasn't even aware of because he doesn't know Dave. So, when Dave encountered the sub-zero-seraph, he was really coming face-to-face with a certain aspect of his own experience of God.
The artist shared the truth. The ice-angel pointed to the truth. Dave experienced the truth.

My writing, when it is both honest and art, tells the truth about my experiences in such a way that it helps readers understand the truth about their own faith and life.

"Click..." There it is again. No photo-shop, no fabrication. Just life.
"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." - John 8:32

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