By MICHAEL PERKINS
CALL IT THE WEAR AND TEAR OF A LIFETIME: call it a loss of faith: call it wisdom, if you prefer. Whatever the cause, I can no longer pray as I so easily and fervently did as a child. Maybe I should be considered “lost”, although I actually feel freed. Maybe I should be pitied, although I sometimes feel I should be envied. Suffice it to say that no building, no symbol, no text gives me that once-natural feeling of connection and community in the same way that a camera does.
The ways that I engage the world with a camera acts, in some ways, as my version of a prayer. In contrast to the petty entreaties that Junior Me sent heavenward in search of my various wants or desires, I find that learning to see the broad miracle that is existence, and trying to fix impressions of that onto various media….that is praying. Not a request for anything from a person, and not as a mere ritual or habit, but still a potentially sacred act.
Photography has become my way of saying thank you to everything, or nobody, in a language that mere verses and scriptures can no longer express. When I take seemingly disparate conditions or elements and cohere them into an image, that’s about as close to the act of creation as I am liable to get. Is the picture an offering, a sacrifice? Actually, it can be that, plus a lot more.
Prayer is thought to be about humility, of realizing that your arms are too short to box with the universe and trying to get said universe to stretch its own arms toward you, to meet you halfway. Photography, or really any art, is an attempt to get those two sets of arms linked. When it works, it produces in me a larger “answer” than anything else to the question, “what’s it all about?” Prayer, for the younger me, was about helping myself feel less alone, to tap into something broader and deeper than myself. And when I celebrate the vast variety of life, then try to share those secrets out with the larger world…well, if that isn’t holy, then I have no idea what is.