Picture this: I am asked to write a blog featuring my photography and my homemade photo cards, and how my eyes and my art and my faith all come together. I agree. I prepare to comply, and as I write, I realize that I am really very new to photography. Sure, I have been an artist for decades, but visual art has come more recently to my palette. For most of my life, I’ve expressed myself in a completely different form. I am actually a teller of tales, a storyteller. I have been (though I didn’t know it, then), ever since I was a child and wanted to out-tell my daddy when it was joke-telling time. I’d crawl up into his lap, after a meal, and we’d tell jokes and laugh.
In my first 2 decades, I made up stories for playmates, told jokes, acted in plays, and bored my friends and family with every detail of my escapades. But it wasn’t until I was a teacher in a small Christian school, daily telling Bible stories to my first graders, that I realized how much I enjoy telling stories! My students would listen, enraptured, as we re-lived the stories together. I began to realize why Our Lord Himself used so many stories in his teachings: we learn through them. It was fun! And I was hooked.
In the decades since, I have told stories to my own two children. At the church we attended before we became Orthodox, I began telling them to other people’s children, as well. I now am blessed with the opportunity to go into schools and libraries and tell folktales from other places, and learn from those tales, while celebrating the beauty of the cultures in our world. I am grateful for the opportunity to read and re-tell each week’s Gospel reading for children in a way that I pray will help them pay better attention during the reading at church each Sunday. It is still fun! And I’m still hooked.
I should have guessed that I would eventually launch into photography. You see, when I am telling stories, I remember them through a series of “photographs,” or mental pictures, that remind me of the significant events in the tale. It’s like I make a little mental scrapbook of the story and simply walk the listeners through, one detail at a time… So, I suppose photography was a logical next artistic step for me.
For as long as I can remember, I have been a “noticer.” Especially in nature, I make an effort to notice things. The childlike part of me wonders, and I am determined not to outgrow that wonder! On any given day, you will hear me say, “Don’t miss the (insert name of amazing detail, ie: sunrise; clouds; perfectly red leaves; cute little person; etc.)!!!” This world is a beautiful work of art, and I don’t want to miss any of the Artist’s carefully placed details! And, as I walk through the scrapbook of His love for us, I intend to proclaim what I see, and simply walk those around me through it, as well, one detail at a time…
However, the “noticer” needed others to help her to truly see… As a child of missionaries, growing up in Guatemala, I was constantly surrounded by much beauty. From the lush green rainforests where I lived to the brilliant colors of the flowers and clothing of the people around me, to the gleam of huge Guatemalan smiles, my surroundings were astonishingly lovely. I enjoyed them all, but didn’t truly realize their beauty until I returned as a young adult, with another artistically-minded friend, who really showed me what I had been seeing all along, but hadn’t noticed. Within the last six months, I returned to my home country again, this time with my husband and children, and, this time, I was completely mesmerized as I saw “my” world, through their eyes. What a gloriously beautiful place! I have learned that we all need others to walk with us, through the scrapbook of His love, to help each other see one detail at a time…
When I take a picture, I am chronicling a story. Perhaps I am telling the story of the events of our family, or I am simply conveying the tale of the incredible beauty of the world as I see it. I try to notice the small things, the details, and capture them with my camera. Nature is my favorite subject matter. As I see what God has done or created, I know that not everyone is there to notice it at that particular moment, but I don’t want them to miss it! So I capture what I can, with my camera, so I can show off His work to others, later.
Saint Basil the Great said, “I want creation to penetrate you with so much admiration that wherever you go, the least plant may bring you the clear remembrance of the Creator… Scripture depicts to us the Supreme Artist, praising each one of His works; soon when His work is complete He will accord praise to the whole together… A single plant, a blade of grass or one speck of dust is sufficient to occupy all your intelligence in beholding the art with which it has been made.”
Picture this: the beautiful world that God has blessed us to live in awaits your notice. Is it not amazing? Whatever you do, soak it up! Allow it to penetrate you with so much admiration that even just a tiny plant reminds you of the Creator. Don’t miss it! Then it is up to you to take each picture that He gives you, and walk those around you through it, so that they don’t miss a single detail. But, here’s a warning from this storyteller-photographer: It’s fun! You’ll be hooked…
Since I was very young, I have made my own cards. I love receiving handmade cards because I know the time and love that was put into crafting such a gift for me, and I try to reciprocate. At some point in my young adult years, I began to use photographs as the main image on my cards, usually photographs of God’s beautiful creation. After Christmas 2010, when most of the gifts that I gave were handmade cards, enough people inquired about their availability for purchase, that I launched “Cards Through My Lens,” at www.CardsThroughMyLens.com. With this blog post, I am launching my latest line: “Beautifully Guatemalan,” highlighting my home country as I saw it in the middle of 2011. I hope you’ll visit my website, and that you don’t miss the amazing moments that God made for us all to enjoy!
Kristina Wenger is a wife and mother of two, a community volunteer, and a peace-lover who teaches children about other cultures. She enjoys crafting, singing, reading, baking, hiking, and photography, although not necessarily simultaneously. She loves to laugh, and delights in little things and in little people. She is grateful to God for bringing her, her husband, and her two children into the Holy Orthodox Church on Holy Saturday of 2005.