From the Shadows…Into the Light

I did not come to photography looking for magic. I came looking for a way to speak my pain. In the process of finding images to portray my darkness, I passed through the shadows into light. Now, I am one of photography’s many lovers, devoted to the art of seeing and revealing. […] There’s something holy about this work, something healing about this search for light. Like the pilgrim’s journey, it’s heaven all the way.

–Jan Phillips, God Is at Eye Level

Someone I loved once gave me
a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand
that this, too, was a gift.

–Mary Oliver, “The Uses of Sorrow”

Through a casual Facebook post featuring some of her favorite books, my pen friend Connie F, introduced me to Jan Phillip’s book, God Is at Eye Level [Thanks, Connie!]. With Amazon [birthday] gift card in hand [Thanks, Tee!], I ordered the book and two others on creative and contemplative photography. 

The photograph of the wilted sunflower is the result of an exercise in God Is at Eye Level that invites readers to use an entire [pretend] 24-exposure roll of film to explore one strong emotion. It is my attempt to capture the tension between the darkness that walks with me as I deal with grief and trauma and the light I feel I need to project.  

But I am learning, day by day, there is value in darkness, particularly if we are using it to move toward Light.

In the quote above, Phillips underscores the usefulness of darkness, its role in our creativity and healing. Darkness is a “gift,” a necessary part of process; therefore, it’s critical that we face the darkness, wrestle with it, deal, so that we might emerge whole, or maybe not as fractured. Running away from it—creating some inauthentic happy place—only imprisons us. The operative word is emerge. Eventually, we “pass through” darkness and into the fullness of Light.

Mini Lesson in Creative Photography

During my hour-long escape from my office last week, I ran into Amanda, a photographer friend who does amazing work. Naturally, we started talking about photography. She exclaimed she needed motivation and inspiration. I remarked that I wanted to do “creative photography.” In that instant she gave me a one-minute lesson on adjusting my position and camera settings and using the sun to “light” an object. After a few failed attempts with my iPhone, I nailed it with my Canon. The DSLR for the win!

After “containing” the sun, I shot again to leave space for words.

After Mary Oliver’s “The Uses of Sorrow”. . .

and a bit of post-processing. . .

Voila! A few looks I like…

and of course, the last one…because it’s purple.

Amanda’s own sun-fired dandelion is amazing (linked).  If you have a moment, click over and check out her IG feed. Lots of beauty for your soul.


Today marks the beginning of NaBloPoMo. I haven’t quite committed to writing blog posts every day this November because I have other pressing writing goals. However, since I was anticipating using this month’s posts to get caught up on pretty mail [and such], I have already drafted at least 10 of them. I figure I can manage posting daily if I can find a few minutes each day–outside of my designated “serious” writing time and away from the general madness of the end of the semester.

We’ll see. Tomorrow [and the next 28 tomorrows] will tell. 😉