Monday, 13 May 2013

The Frame

My Dad was a photographer. Everywhere he went he took at least one camera and all family events are documented with pictures. He loved photography and commemorating our lives with careful images was a joy to him. 

He taught me to take photographs too. Photography appeals to my sentimental side; I'd rather have an occasion fixed and permanent. Memories can be so slippery. Camera phones are a godsend as I can whip out my phone and snap anything with a flick of thumb on touchscreen rather than use the bulky old kit that hangs heavy round the neck with zips and buttons and lens caps to negotiate. In Dad's day there were light-meters and exposures to select and all manner of variables that we don't have to worry about now. 

Swipe, click. Plug in and print. 

We used to have to wait a week to get back the pictures and see if there were any good ones. When they came back from the developers I would short through them excitedly and then show Dad my photos and he would offer advice, either in terms of composition or technical detail.  A compliment from Dad was high praise indeed. Even today, eight years after he died, when I look at my photos I try to see them through Dad's eyes. And when I stop in my tracks on the walk to school in a morning because there's something worth photographing, and my daughter rolls her eyes at the delay, I have a little smile because I used to do just the same.

Dad taught me to frame my pictures. Don't just press the button, he'd say. Look through the viewfinder.  Take a bit of time to try things out and see what works; what improves the composition.

Landscape or portrait? To zoom or not to zoom? Find a tree to frame one side of the image, or a silhouette to bring a sunset to life. Make sure there's some colour. Don't overlook the foreground; it can add depth.

Not too much sky, try not to put the horizon right in the middle.

A change of perspective can make a dull photo into a great one.

A frame makes all the difference. 

A frame can change the nature of the picture completely. A simple sketch can be transformed by the frame that it's mounted in.  It can change the whole nature of the scene. If you only see part of a picture you can misinterpret the whole thing.

With so much in life I just snap the photo without looking for a frame. I rush to interpret things as they appear to me in the heat of the moment. I am prone to anxiety and I am not by nature an optimist, so if I'm faced with troubles, then the picture I inevitably take is one of worry and negativity. I see what I think I see; I press the shutter before I've explored if there is more to the photograph than I initially thought. I am quick to assume the worst.

I don't bother looking for a frame because I'm not planning on hanging that picture on the wall. With hindsight, I might have realised that the situation was not as bad as I thought. What I feared didn't happen; and even if it did, then something better might have come out of it. 

I see a tiny part of the picture, but you see all of it, Father God. I see a fraction of an image; a piece of a vast mosaic, and I'm quite sure that taking a series of close-ups of my muddled-up life doesn't add up to the whole thing any more than a beautiful set of snowflake images can reveal the grandeur of a mountain range. 

Help me to remember that what I see as the whole picture is just a tiny part. I work in three dimensions but you hold the whole of history in your hand. 

You knew me since before the world began and you understand my place in it completely, when I am so small that the mood I'm in when I climb out of bed can affect the way I view my life. 

I can only see the horizon - you know what there is beyond.

My whole life is framed by your love for me, Lord Jesus. It changes who I am; or it would if I let it. If I only pause for a moment as I peer through the viewfinder, I might see a better picture than the obvious one. If I move the camera to the left or right, there might be things to see that change the way I view things. If I shift from telephoto to wide angle there might be something else that I should be seeing.

When I see things through the frame of who you are - who I am - things change. Suddenly that oppressive scene is not as stark or fearsome.  There is distance, mid-ground and foreground. It's not black and white any more. There is colour and detail.  Somehow the frame transforms the picture.

I can change what I see by remembering the frame. 

So next time I look at what's happening in my life, I'm going to try and remember that when bad things seem to be threatening, I am loved by the King. When the storm clouds are gathering and things are dark, that I am precious to you and you will take care of me. When I feel lost and lonely, you have promised that you will never leave me. And when things do go wrong, you have promised that you can bring good out of anything.

Even the worst picture can be improved with a frame.

The camera never lies; but it doesn't tell the whole story. 

Linking up with Nacole at Sixinthesticks for #concrete words again. 


  1. This really spoke to me, today. Thank you.

  2. I'm glad. Thank you for letting me know. x

  3. Superb analogy! I'm still working on framing my pictures. Both levels.

  4. 'I see what I think I see; I press the shutter before I've explored if there is more to the photograph than I initially thought. I am quick to assume the worst.' <<<- this is me. And I spent my morning getting anxious to the point of light-headed. My head hurts and I needed to read this, thank you

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  6. I'm having laptop problems, so not sure if my comment clicked through. just wanted you to know that this was just what I needed to read today. An anxious morning. Fantastic post

  7. Thanks, Ruth. I hope things are looking less stressful by now. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. Those 'Me too' moments mean a lot.

  8. Thanks for this beautiful analogie! Love it to read. Thanks.

  9. I am amazed at how a simple prompt can lead to such revelation. Your photography expertise brought such depth to this wonderful truth. And what a beautiful prayer. Thank you so much for sharing! I will be looking for ways to frame my outlook as well.

    1. Karin thanks so much for reading and taking the trouble to comment. I'm so glad it spoke to you.

  10. You give us a simply beautiful image here, Helen. I love the way you weave in family history, photographic expertise and theology into one lovely prayerful reflection. So much to take away and absorb. Favourite parts that spoke to me:"what I see as the whole picture is just a tiny part. I work in three dimensions but you hold the whole of history in your hand" - oh so true! And:"my whole life is framed by your love for me" which is greatly helped by remembering to "see things through the frame of who you are".
    Thank you for letting us in on this snapshot of your conversation with God and the wonderful way He enlightens you as you go along. We are blessed greatly by sharing it too. :) xx

    1. Oh, Joy. You are so lovely. Thanks for your generous words. x

  11. This is a great posting Helen, I found this through Blogging for God on Facebook. I understand what you are saying as I too see things very differently than I used to after coming to know God. I used to be very pessimistic about life, depressed, and downtrodden about my situation, but knowing God has certainly changed all that. I look upon things as a whole new, never ending horizon and I can look upon that horizon with comfort and security knowing that my Shepherd is with me. I'm going to share this with my wife as well. She's a photographer (though sadly lacking gear at the moment) and I think she will appreciate your use of the analogy.

  12. Thanks so much, Jay. Sometimes for me there's a big gap between what I know is true, and what I feel - I need to try and get this from my head to my heart.
    Thank you for reading and leaving a comment. Makes my day.

  13. Helen, what a beautiful relationship between you and your father. "I can change what I see by remembering the frame" --oh yes, me too, I need to remember this. Shifting the frame just a bit makes all the difference. Thank you for sharing this with us, friend.


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