Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Amish Have It Backwards

No, I don't mean the buggies. The Amish are reputed to avoid getting pictures taken of them because they fear losing their soul. I think they are talking about the wrong end of the camera. Thirty years ago in Germany, I got paid to take news photos for the Army just like now. I had a lot of success. One of my pictures landed on the cover of Stars and Stripes. Hundreds got published.

Then I quit taking pictures. In fact, I don't actually own a camera. I have a camera in my cell phone and that has been enough. Everyone around me seems to have cameras so I let them take pictures. Over the last week I started to remember one of the reasons why I stopped. The camera hurts the soul of the photographer. It doesn't steal your soul--that might be better. But the more pictures I take and the better they are, the more I am "the guy with the camera."

Now when people have events they want me to take the picture. And they want me to take the picture they way they want it--which means the picture is going to suck anyway. It will suck in my $3000 camera (Army Property) instead of sucking in their $100 camera.

Why will it suck. Because inevitably, they envision a photo beginning with the BACKGROUND. Their goal is a tourist photo which includes themselves and all of the Ziggurat of Ur, or a square mile of desert, or an entire Chinook Helicopter. Which means the people disappear. YUCK.

I take photos: eyes first, then face, then enough of the rest of the body to convey attitude. I want to see someone through their work.

So the real problem is that I am becoming more judgmental than I already am. Cameras are harsh. People who look good normally can look bad in pictures. They look worse in my kind of pictures because I get close. I start to look at people through the lens and know before the first shot they will look bad. I know most people around me are happy with the photos they take. I would not have cared before I was shooting pictures four days a week. Now I am looking at them like they drink $3 boxed wine.

So if I am not careful, it will be me who loses his soul, from the back side of the camera.

Flags at Half Staff

All the flags on Camp Adder are at half staff to honor the dead at Fort Hood. One of the national guard brigades where a friend of mine works flies the Texas State Flag next to Old Glory. Last night at dinner she was saying everyone in her shop mobilized out of Hood and went through the facility where the shooting occurred. Many of the national guard soldiers are full time and work at Hood. They know people, civilians and military, who work at that facility and were frantic for a while wondering of someone they knew was a victim. No one was. It seems the victims soldiers getting ready to deploy. How horrible for their families to lose their soldier before he or she even gets on the plane.

Earlier this year when an American soldier was captured in Afghanistan, most soldiers turned and watched the news when there was something about that soldier, then turned back when that segment was over. It has been that way since the shooting. If there is a report from Hood, people watch, if not they turn back to their conversation. The darkest comments are of the WTF variety "What the F#$k were they thinking when this scum bag was admiring suicide bombers on blogs and trying to get out of deploying."

I was talking to another friend before this tragedy about chance and Providence. CS Lewis, following Boethius (The Consolation of Philosophy), says we live in a created world in which chance and randomness rule the lives of every creature except those who are following God's will for their lives. This may seem like abstract theology, but at times like this and 9/11 and other tragedies, if you believe the created universe is determined down to the movement of particles, then an event like this can only be God's will. A field-grade officer murdering his fellow soldiers is not God's will. The Lord gave us free will and at times like this I wish it were otherwise. But we are free to love, or not. So right now to this random act of violence we are all free to do the Lord's work in caring for the victims and their families.

Faith in the Military: Chaplains During the Cold War and the Current Wars

Army Chaplain with Armor Unit In the Cold War Army of the 1970s, the Protestant Chaplains were very different men...