William Walsh – God’s creature – skilled in photography.

Interviewer: j. harms

harms: What pleasure drew you to take up photography?

walsh: My love for nature is what motivated me to get into photography. I discovered a strong desire to communicate the internal sense of awe that I feel when I am in a place of great natural beauty. God is the great Artist and each day we are witness to the continuously-changing canvas upon which He paints. His creativity is not finished. Nature is a common grace that we often take for granted. We rarely take time to really see the beauty and intricacy in what God has created. Photography compels me to slow down and spend time in careful observation, looking for evidence of divine design and artistry.

In recent years I have been privileged to experience other cultures through short-term mission trips to Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Brazil, and the Dominican Republic. These cross-cultural opportunities have opened up a second photographic pursuit and have caused somewhat of a personal earthquake. These trips have deeply impacted my motivations and desires as a photographer.

God’s grace knows no cultural boundaries. Every culture originates with Him. Each possesses aspects of goodness and beauty. Human sin and evil exist in each as well. I am striving to capture compelling images that communicate the story each culture has to tell through its people and places.

"All culture ultimately derives from the fact that people are created in the image of God and gifted by Him in many and varied ways. After all, the psalmist tells us, God has given gifts of all kinds to all kinds of people, even those who are in rebellion against Him, with the idea that He might express Himself through those gifts, as they are brought to bear on the task of creating culture." (Moore, Consider the Lilies, pg. 101)

We are steadily approaching the day when every people group will have the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As this happens, we see how the kingdom of God is advancing around the world. Being able to experience this directly in various cultures is new territory for me and I am excited about what I am learning.

harms: Is there anything that you have learned specifically about the mercy or grace of God through your time in photography?

walsh: The cornerstone of my vision for photography is Romans 1:20.

For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. (ESV)

The quest to recognize God’s eternal power and divine nature is not an easy one, nor does it replace our need for the revelation He has provided through the Scriptures. But it is a discipline that we should not neglect. Creation is a common grace that God uses to tell us about himself; to reveal to us his mercy, his power, and his love. I recently came across a quote from Abraham Kuyper that describes what I have in mind.

"A Calvinist who seeks God, does not for a moment think of limiting himself to theology and contemplation, leaving the other sciences, as of a lower character, in the hands of unbelievers; but on the contrary, looking upon it as his task to know God in all his works, he is conscious of having been called to fathom with all the energy of his intellect, things terrestrial as well as things celestial; to open to view both the order of creation, and the “common grace” of the God he adores, in nature and its wondrous character, in the production of human industry, in the life of mankind, in sociology and in the history of the human race" (Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism, pg 125).

I believe, with Kuyper, that general revelation is something that God wants us to pursue and explore as we seek to know Him and understand His ways.

harms: What has God taught you about yourself and the difference between you and Him through your artistic pleasures?

walsh: I have learned that God’s creativity and artistry are infinite. Over and over again I have felt the frustration of personally witnessing places of great beauty without being able to capture them in a photograph. I have been confronted with my finiteness. There are so many limitations to overcome: time, place, technical issues, and my ability to see clearly (or not see clearly, as the case may be). One could spend a hundred lifetimes observing, studying, and portraying God’s handiwork and it would still only scratch the surface. All of this brings me to a place of humility and worship. To my mind, this is a bit of a taste of what we will be doing in the new heavens and the new earth. I believe we will study, learn about, discuss, and portray all the facets of His character and His creation. And we will worship Jesus Christ who spoke all creation into existence and sustains it by the word of His power.

"All art points to a transaction between reality of the seen and reality of the unseen. Art reaches out to the extra-dimensionality of God and God's Kingdom Reality. Art uses frail, earthly materials, its limited dimensionality to open ourselves to the experience of the Heavenly realm." (Fujimura, Images of Grace)

harms: What have you learned about trusting God for your every provision and satisfaction?

walsh: I am learning to trust Him as the most skillful art teacher. I am learning to trust Him to provide everything I need in His proper timing so that I can grow in this craft. I am learning to trust Him to open doors of opportunity and provide the means for me to directly experience other places and cultures that I never expected to see in my lifetime. I am learning to trust Him in the midst of those travels when I am way out of my comfort zone or when my safety is at risk. It is easy to let skill, experiences, creativity, and safety become an end in themselves. But Christ tells me to seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added; in their proper place, in their proper proportions, at the proper time.

harms: What pleasures do you know in God that are uniquely or especially known when you are laboring in photography?

walsh: One of the joys of nature photography is in getting up early to capture the best light. These are usually times of solitude in places of natural beauty and grandeur. In these moments I have experienced the nearness and friendship of God. During these solo treks I am often asking Him to help me to see clearly what He has created and to give me a glimpse of the glory of His handiwork.

I also enjoy the process of continuously learning and developing as an artist. I don’t feel as though I am very far along. It takes time. But I see small, steady improvements. I am learning that art is craftsmanship. The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. God plants a seed in me and then works with me to grow it. It doesn’t necessarily grow by itself. It takes work on my part. But there is a co-laboring with Him that gives me hope that I can progress.

harms: Can you share with us what faithfulness looks like in the stewardship of your artistic disciplines?

walsh: The discipline of seeing is by far the most difficult. When I am standing before a scene with a camera, there are a great number of positions, angles, and technical methods to capture an image. There are many occasions where I have a sense that there could be a great image somewhere before me, but I cannot find a way to capture and express the vision I sense inside. To be faithful in this circumstance means to be persistent.

The discipline of patience is crucial to photography. There are many occasions when I have to wait hours for the right kind of light, or take many, many shots to get the right one, or make many trips back to the same location. The biggest challenge is to be patient with myself when, after giving so much effort, I come home from a shoot and find that my images fall far short of portraying what I saw and felt.

The discipline of repentance is very necessary as I seek His power to increasingly shed my sinful propensity to glorify myself. It’s amazing that this battle has to be fought when I consider that all the glory that I witness of course does not originate with me. My heart is deceitful. But there is hope that God will sanctify it so that I am able to steadily give myself more and more to portraying and declaring the glory of God.

"God has appointed us docents in His museum of wonders and glory, and charged us with declaring His glory to one and all, pointing out the beauty, goodness, truth, wonder, majesty, power, and lovingkindness of God that is flaming out and oozing all around us as He fathers-forth His glory in the unbroken, unending words and sentences of general revelation." (Moore, Consider the Lilies, pg. 204)


William Walsh's work can be viewed at: www.clearlyseen.org


© 2007 The Gaius Project