unnatural realism

If I had to provide a name for my infantile photography style, it would have to be unnatural realism.

‘Realism’ in the sense that I find myself growing intolerant of hyper-edited shots that look nothing at all like the world.  Over-highlighted, over (or under) exposed and saturated, shadows removed, etc.  All to just make it more ‘exciting’.  I find myself gravitating to the normal, the mundane, the ‘boring’.  I try to capture the wonder of the everyday that we so often skip over so quickly because of our… wait, my busy schedule.

And ‘unnatural’, because I think all photography, like all art, is a startlingly unnatural thing, in the sense that nature doesn’t care what it looks like.  Nature doesn’t say “ooh, this will make a good shot, get this angle…”  To mash C.S. Lewis and Richard Dawkins into one assessment, Nature is a blind, pitiless, indifferent and dumb witch.  Imagine (if you dare) every single angle and distance/zoom combination you could take of a given object in the world.  Now imagine every object in the world – the ones that get attention (i.e. Auckland Skytower), and the ones that don’t (i.e. a simple blade of grass by your sidewalk).  Take it into movies/film.  How boring would a 100 minutes of raw footage from a still camera in my back yard be?  The point?  We cannot overstate how selective we are in what we choose to record, and how we choose to the post-process it.  Insanely unnatural.

Anyway, those are some thoughts that have been rattling around my brain whilst I carry my camera around.

the mighty chorus

Just making preparations for song-leading at Carey graduation, and spotted this gem of a line, which opens the fourth verse of Henry van Dyke’s hymn (to the tune of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Hymn to Joy), Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee:

Mortals join the mighty chorus, which the morning stars began…

I love the thought of all of the vast ages upon ages of ‘chorusing’ that the stars have sounded.  And that we humble and small and relatively quiet humans get to ‘join’ (not lead!!) it.

yes i did that…

Way back when I used to want to be the next Chris Tomlin (because we don’t have enough worship leaders), I remember starting a “worship band” (because we don’t have enough worship bands).

I actually got us all together for I think one jam-slash-practice…  Looking back, they were actually pretty stinking solid musically.  A patient, and accurate drummer, a skilled bassist (who could play upright, etc.), and a fantastic female vocalist… and I was ‘humble’ enough that I even planned to let her sing lead on a few songs.

If this is not embarrassing enough, I remember quite distinctly proposing a name for this worship band (or was it more informing them!?).  I think I’d even printed out a ‘logo’ on plain white 8 1/2 x 11 (which is NOT exactly the same size as A4, for all you kiwi readers), using —ouch the embarrassment!!!— Papyrus font on Microsoft word.

I don’t remember if it was as two, one or two hyphenated words, but I obviously felt that it would help to explain the ‘inspiration’ behind the name: “Servant-saints” (!!!)  “You know, cuz we’re called to be servants, and we’re also seen by God as saints.”

(face –>palm)


second verse by Cohen:

And Jesus was a sailor
When he walked upon the water
And he spent a long time watching
From his lonely wooden tower
And when he knew for certain
Only drowning men could see him
He said “All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”
But he himself was broken
Long before the sky would open
Forsaken, almost human
He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone
And you want to travel with him
And you want to travel blind
And you think maybe you’ll trust him
For he’s touched your perfect body with his mind.

theory & practice

They’re meant to reinforce one another.

I just had lunch with a friend, and we talked about how much fun it was learning the 5 different fretboard patterns of pentatonic (five-tone) scales on the guitar.  When his practice was less developed, music theory had seemed boring and irrelevant to him, but now it was exciting and directly relevant.

It’s like this with just about anything you do, isn’t it?  There is a theoretical side to just about everything you can do.  Advanced mathematical formulae will help you do all kinds of science, but can seem irrelevant for the amateur lover of the natural world.  The study of history will aid healthy analysis of political swings and round-a-bouts, but can seem tedious to the armchair politician.  Etymology will help one choose the choicest words in your literary endeavors, but sound high-browed and lofty.  Analytic philosophy will help one to interact with ideas more efficiently, but sound like a pedantic waste of time.  Systematic theology will shape and enrich a life of worshipful obedience, but seem like detached speculation.


One of many references that show that ‘judgment’ does not always mean (negatively) ‘to damn’ or ‘to punish’, etc., but can have positive connotations.

Isaiah 11:4a “…but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.”

This Hebrew parallelism has three pairs, with the second term being a related term that means not exactly the same thing and the first, but develops the meaning further, broadening the picture.

  • ‘righteousness’ and ‘justice’
  • ‘judge’ and ‘give decisions for’
  • ‘needy’ and ‘poor of the earth’


Proverbs 22:7 – “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.”

A friend recently (and wisely) observed that this is unfortunately ‘heard’/’taken’ as a command rather than as a lamentation.  Which made me think about how much interpretation we can do even with simple sentences.  The above verse could be (mis)understood in the following senses:

  • That this is the way things are intended to be: ‘God wants the rich to rule over the poor and delights in the borrower being a slave to the lender.’
  • A cold, apathetic, uncaring, indifferent (‘scientific’), and descriptive observation: ‘The rich have more power than (and often power ‘over’) the poor, and the borrower is indebted to the lender.’
  • An implicit command: ‘Don’t be poor!  Don’t be ruled by the rich!  Don’t borrow money! Ever!  It’s is wrong!’
  • A lament with an appeal to listen and live life accordingly: “Money quickly becomes a thing that is used to control and enslave people.  Large gaps between the rich and poor and large debts are all too real.  Please listen to this, and avoid doing that to others or yourself!’

i wonder…

I wonder if Psalm 80 wasn’t a favourite of the particularly zealous 1st century Jews who would have been pleased to see the Romans overthrown by a long hoped-for military Messiah? ((Not all 1st century Jews were militant – i.e. Hillel)) I can imagine this Psalm being sung in the Synagogues of the day… and I can imagine John the Baptist – and later, Jesus – countering their use of Psalm 80 with his own use of Isaiah 5! ((See Matthew 3 and Luke 3))

I also wonder if Psalm 91 was another favourite? I can imagine it being sung – and expounded – in Synagogues. ((or perhaps more whispered in less public gatherings?)) Surely the revolt against Rome would be God-sanctioned and God-sheltered! I can imagine Jesus being tempted in the desert ((Scorcese’s ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ has a brilliant scene along these lines)) by this kind of ‘firm belief’ ((reference to Jars of Clay lyric from ‘Oh My God’; ‘You take away my firm belief, and graft my soul upon your grief.’)), and countering it with the Torah. His messianic path was one that led not to a violent take-over, but to the Cross.