I snapped this photo on the streets of NYC. It’s very raw and real. It’s also very unexpected because I was actually trying to snap a shot of the adorable man getting a shoe-shine right behind him without his knowledge or him posing in any way. No mugging for the camera. Instead I caught a man on the streets, his eyes cast upward, having a discussion with what I imagine was God. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from River Rising, an incredible work of fiction from the award-winning author Athol Dickson. In the novel the main character looks up and says a simple prayer – “Look down here, Lord.” And I think that is just one of the finest prayers I’ve ever heard. It’s perfection personified in my book. When I was looking back through my photo album this shot captured my attention again. It looks like a simple man having a word if you will with the Divine. A quick raw snapshot that captured a truth.
Then I started thinking about snapshots of the soul and what they might look like. The photos I have for publicity have been ‘softly touched up’ as one photographer called it. Those dark circles under this writers eyes have been erased along with a few more lines for good measure. The photos make me look better than I do, no doubt about it. Although we all have good days and bad days – photoshop keeps us perpetually bright eyed and youthful. But I don’t confused by all the smoke and mirrors. It’s all for fun and putting your best face forward so to speak when you have the chance but it was also my birthday yesterday. I turned fifty-two delightful years old and that’s the wonderful truth. So I was viewing the photos of this man in mid-conversation and thinking about things like truth and raw images. Then I began thinking about what the images of the soul caught off-guard would look like. Raw material, something truthful and completely revealing. I think for most of us it would be a mixed bag. All our good, all our bad, all rolled into one. It occurred to me that photo shopping an image of our faces is a pretty easy trick this day and age but of our souls? Not so easy. There is no quick air-brush trick to wipe out those angry words, no pencil to fill in for the deeds we’ve left undone, no coloring system to fill in the good words we left unsaid. But what occured to me is that some of my best moments that any camera could have taken would have been the ones where I stopped and took time to pray for a stranger. Those little tiny moments. I think they have indeed been a type of washing. The days where I’ve kept my eyes open to those around me, the ones where I’ve been more sensitive to the human race – those are the days I’d hope to be caught by a Divine lens. “Look down here, Lord,” indeed. Brushstroke the cloudiness of my soul. Erase the dark spots, the jagged edges, so that I can clearly see those around me with a loving eye and an open heart.