“I did nothing. The Word did it all.” - Martin Luther
Many years ago, I grew up in Africa with creation everywhere. I loved being outside; riding bikes, climbing trees, hiking, hunting, and riding motorcycles. As a boy I also learned the basics of photography; taking pictures, developing film and making prints.
In High School at Rift Valley Academy in Kenya, my graphic arts teacher, Tony Dickens, imparted an excellent foundation in both the technical and artistic nature of photography. During college I "discovered" Ansel Adams, the very influential and superb photographer of the American West. His powerful images showed me how the landscape could be revealed in fine art photography. The emotional power and beauty of his prints motivated me to pursue fine art landscape photography.
In 1988 I limited my photography to the landscape and began making a few good landscape images using a Pentax 67 medium format film camera. During that time I learned that one of the best ways to improve photography skill is to attempt to make your own fine art prints. What an education. It was a bit like discovering that it takes more than just owning a piano to create good music. I eventually moved on from the Pentax 67 system because I wanted to tilt the lens for increased depth of field and I wanted to make larger prints with greater emotional impact.
In 1998 I began using a large film format Toyo 4x5 view camera. At last I could tilt and shift the lenses to my heart’s content. I really thought that the Toyo 4x5 would be the last camera system I would ever need. At that time, the Toyo 4x5 was basically the ultimate camera for making the highest quality landscape photography images available. It was a wonderful camera, but better tools began to emerge - sensors without film.
I stopped using the Toyo 4x5 in 2009 and started a long, messy transition to digital capture. There were two basic limitations: resolution and depth of field. I tried everything to solve those problems, pano-stitching, focus stacking, etc. However, the “solutions” created other difficulties of visualization and capture out in the landscape. Eventually new tools and new methods permitted the production of excellent work.
I have used a Canon 5DSR digital camera since 2015 with great results. Each camera system has been a tool (each one eventually surpassed) but capable of being used to create high quality, emotionally compelling images of creation.
However, photography is insignificant compared to God’s light and His glory. It is impossible to think too highly of God. In 1998, by the grace and mercy of God, I began reading and studying the Bible with renewed purpose. God’s Word spoke to my heart. I wanted to use photography for God’s glory but I didn’t know what form it would take.
I recorded many different ideas in my journal over the years. Here is one from August, 2001 “Photographs without words are like music without words. Words are needed to drive the meaning and direction of the work. Without words the art can produce great response and emotion but the artist’s intent may be lost. For instance, a piece of classical music which was composed as praise to God, could later be used by others to promote antagonism toward God.”
In October, 2002, while searching for trends in landscape photography I suddenly realized the need to change my thinking. In the past, I had generally regarded a fine art photograph from an “Ansel Adams” philosophy. That is, to present the photograph with little or no accompanying text. The fine art print is supreme and the interpretation is left to the viewer’s imagination. That method of presentation is fine, but it does not point the viewer in any particular direction.
I began to understand the importance of words accompanying the image as a result of reading two books by David Hurn, On Being a Photographer, and On Looking at Photographs, both published by LensWork Publishing.
It took another year of thinking, writing, and wondering before I made the initial prototypes of what would become Creation’s Witness prints. After viewing those first prints I wrote, “This format of image and words together on the same sheet of paper will accomplish what I have been trying to figure out for about ten years. I have wanted to publish a book with pictures and verses since 1988, but I think this poster idea is better than a book. They can be displayed on walls where many people will see them and they make a direct connection between the image and words.”
My journey of learning to create excellent landscape photographs and the desire to use them to display the grace of God’s light, reminds me of a quote from E.H. Gombrich, The Story of Art; “There is really no such thing as Art. There are only artists – men and women, that is, who are favored with the wonderful gift of balancing shapes and colors till they are ‘right’, and, rarer still, who possess that integrity of character which never rests content with half-solutions but is ready to forgo all easy effects, all superficial success for the toil and agony of sincere work.”
In his 12/20/2006 LensWork podcast, Brooks Jenson said, “I’ve felt, for some time, that the next new hard in photography is the true potential of photography. That is exploring the human soul. Creating in photographs great passion which has nothing to do with photography.”
I hope that this website helps you think about God’s creation and His eternal Word. The One, who in the beginning created the universe, offers redemption and restoration through Jesus Christ to anyone who believes.
May the Word of God and the Spirit of God be at work in your life.