October 2015

Watch the birdie!

I have a love/hate relationship with wedding photographers. Well, that is half true. If the photographer does not move about in the service, keeps still, does not distract the congregation, does not distract the couple and does not distract me, then we can have a deeply loving relationship. If, however, the photographer breaches any of those simple rules, then things can get a tad frosty

The one unquestionable advantage of there being a wedding photographer present, however, is that I can ask members of the congregation not to take photographs during the service. And I do not that not because I am a grumpy spoilsport, but because everyone who is at a service is there to participate not to observe. And that applies to weddings just as much as to any other service. People are there to affirm their love and support for the couple as they embark on married life together, and nobody can do that while leering through a lens at the same time. I am thinking about applying the same rule at baptisms. The problem has not arisen at funerals yet, but I am sure it is only a matter of time.

The issue goes much wider than just church services. If you are looking at life through a camera lens, you are detaching yourself from what is going on around you. And that applies to sporting events, plays and all sorts of other things as well as services. You cannot fully experience any of these things if you spend your time faffing about with a camera: and of course, now that pretty well everyone has a camera with them the whole time, the temptation is great. 

I was recently on holiday in Kenya, and, yes, during that time, I took a fair few photographs of wild animals and other things. But I tried to limit myself. So, for instance, one evening at about 5.30, just before the sun went down, we found ourselves about 30 yards from a couple of lions. And we experienced that moment when the lions got up from their day’s rest, sniffed the air, and moved off towards their prey. It was quite extraordinary and a huge privilege to be there. It was also, ironically, quite unforgettable in a way it wouldn’t have been if I had been filming it. For then, I might have been able to replay the moment, but I wouldn’t have been able to replay and recall my feelings and emotions, because there would not have been any.

Jesus said, ‘I have come that you may have life, and have it in abundance’. You can’t have life in abundance if you live its most memorable and important moments through a camera lens. You might be able to bore people rigid with your snapshots, but you won’t be able to relive moments in your heart and in your mind. And to cut yourself off from the opportunity to do that is to waste the experiences that life throws in your path. You also, by sacrificing the power of memory to the dead weight of photographic recall, you actively diminish the power of your imagination, one of God’s greatest gifts to us and one of the things that set us apart from all other creatures.

Wouldn’t it be good if we did a bit more watching the birds and indulged a bit less in ‘watch the birdie’.