Sunday, December 23, 2012


After I graduated high school and before I became truly passionate about knitting, I considered getting a degree in journalism. I've always enjoyed writing - I wrote stacks of reports that I was never assigned because I liked doing the research and setting down my findings on paper in a way that would (hopefully) make the reader as excited about the topic as I was. And I have a genetic drive to photographically document my life (my Dad snuck what amounted to a spy camera through his Army training, and captured an array of fascinating stills, including a time-lapse series of him in the act of parachuting out of an airplane). My homepage is the Boston Globe's "Big Picture" section, which features a series of news stories told in photographs.

I peruse the images - sometimes they document the small details of daily life, sometimes the sweeping horror of natural disasters - but no matter the subject, there are always some that capture emotional moments (either good or bad). I know that many people look at those pictures and in some way resent the one who took them. "Can you imagine having a camera in your face at a time like that? How could they be so insensitive?"

But what if the pictures weren't there? What if every sight and experience was held only in the minds of those who saw and experienced for themselves? Thomas Moran trekked his photographic equipment into the untamed wild of what is now Yellowstone National Park, and the images of natural wonder that he captured inspired Congress to establish Yellowstone as the first national park in 1872. Joe Galloway, an American newspaper correspondent, not only won a Bronze Star for Valor in the 1965 Battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam, but also shot a series of heart-wrenching photos that made a distant and unimaginable war more real to those who saw them.

These were not posed Kodak moments of happy family reunions and dogs playing in sprinklers - the men who preserved those historic moments risked their lives to do so, besides trampling on what some would consider sacred. Imagine the discoveries that would have gone on living only as the tall tales of half-mad trappers if they had not been photographically proven; if their discoverers had been too much in awe of Nature to prop up their unwieldy machine on the untouched turf. What of the daily horrors with which our planet heaves? Would an event that occurred halfway around the world strike as deep a chord in our hearts were it not for pictures like these, taken of the 2011 Japanese earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster?

I do not defend the actions of all journalists and photographers - I do believe that there are some things better left unphotographed, and that there is a point when we become so saturated with those horrors that they cease to have meaning. But for the most part, our human selfishness causes us to too quickly forget the fallenness around us, to suppress the urgency of the Gospel. We need to be reminded of what is Good, and what Evil has done to the world, in order to stir our somnolent hearts to action. The sacred must be saved to inspire those who are surrounded by darkness, and shared with those souls who need to be reminded of how many lost souls yet remain, and shouted for those who would close their eyes to it - we need to have it ever before us so that we can never forget and never falter.

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