30 April 2008

SoFoBoMo: Editing phase

I'm back from a few days in Atlanta, where I took the last of my photos for my SoFoBoMo book. Still need to go through and select out the 35+ best ones for the book, but once I've weeded out the bad ones, I have decided on my further selection criteria: No theme whatsoever, simply a look at the breadth of (sometimes extraordinary) experiences I have in an ordinary month. I'm going to go for variety as much as possible.

I shot all the photos over a period of 30 calendar days, though I actually only shot on 14 of those days (March 29-30, April 1-3, 5, 6, 13, 20, 21, 24-27). So I am allowing my “fuzzy month” to spill over into the first couple of weeks of May for the editing and layout work. I decided to do the layout in Microsoft Word, since I know it intimately, and it was taking too long to get proficient in InDesign. I will do the front and back covers in InDesign. I've already done a layout for that. All I need to do is plug in the photo I choose for my front cover.

I've also picked a title for the book, written all the introductory material, and thrown together a first crack at the book with one page of text and one photo, just to give myself some momentum. I converted the cover from InDesign to PDF and the content from Word to PDF and combined the two PDF documents into one. All this in about 5 hours this evening. It looks pretty good, if I do say so myself. I've signed up for an Issuu account so I can publish it there once I'm done. Yippee! This is getting exciting.

22 April 2008

SoFoBoMo: Day 23

I started a couple of days early, so I've only got a week left of my "fuzzy month." But I am going to be away in Atlanta for most of that time, taking more pictures no doubt. So I'm going to have to make my fuzzy month longer than 31 calendar days. I claim the right to do that because I have had big chunks of time in the middle of this month when I've been busy with other things and have had to put the SoFoBoMo project on hold. I plan to enter full time into editing and compilation mode immediately upon return. I've already been doing some selecting and editing as I go.

Yesterday I went shooting at the A Rocha field study centre and got some nice shots. A Rocha is a worldwide organization of Christians doing environmental conservation work. I'm friends with the couple who head up the Canadian arm of it. They've invited me to do some photography for them, for their website and newsletters. This one shows the farm side of their property. I tend to prefer close-up work, but I think I've been looking at Paul Butzi's photos long enough that the beauty of a wide shot of a rural setting is starting to rub off on me. The small size of this blog format doesn't do it justice, so you need to click on it to see it enlarged.

19 April 2008

Weird weather! Snow in April in Vancouver!!!

Usually we don't get snow beyond January. This is a very strange winter indeed. We're expected to get an accumulation of up to 5cm. Lows around freezing through Tuesday. I took this photo earlier tonight:

Meanwhile the cherry blossoms are out and looking spectacular. I took this one five days ago:

14 April 2008

Saint Francis of Assisi

Small statue in the garden of the Mission Concepción in San Antonio. I took this from close range with a low camera angle, to make him look a lot bigger. But he was really only about 3 or 4 feet tall. He seems to have lost a hand.

13 April 2008

SoFoBoMo: A splash of color

This was a fountain I saw in San Antonio, near the River Walk. The "splash of color" looks like an Andy Goldsworthy creation, but it's got random twigs and dead petals in it, which he'd never do. His works are so perfect. So evidently the petals were formed into that shapely splotch by the flow of water from the fountain.

I'm still not seeing a theme emerge for my SoFoBoMo book, so it might end up being random photos. Today I went out walking with my dog and my camera, like what Paul Butzi has been doing for his SoFoBoMo project. Nothing great came of that. It's hard to take good dog pictures when you've got to keep your dog on a leash, which I do in my neighborhood, since she's going deaf, and there are cars, and she's prone to wandering off and getting into people's trash.

12 April 2008

SoFoBoMo: The halfway point approaches

Well, I haven't taken any more photos since the Texas trip. Perhaps I should have arranged a hiatus from all my other responsibilities for the month. (Yeah, right. Tell that to the IRS!)

Here's a photo of my friends' sons (ages 7 and 5) sitting outside the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, looking at a fountain. Smart, thoughtful kids. I have never seen kids behave so well in an art museum. They were actually interested in stuff! I remember back at that age, and even older, my siblings and I were bored silly in them. The only fun times were when my brother set off the alarm once by touching a painting, and when he and I rearranged the letters on a sign to spell naughty words.

10 April 2008

Transforming Culture Symposium

As promised, here's my initial summary of the conference I attended last week, along with another photo from it (which might make it into my SoFoBoMo book). I sent this out to a bunch of Regent College friends, hence all the Regent references.

Regent Alumni Enjoy a Great Banquet at the Transforming Culture Symposium in Austin

Perhaps it was the lure of seeing and hearing Eugene Peterson and Jeremy Begbie again, or the desire to support our fellow alum David Taylor (ThM '00) whose brainchild this conference was, or simply the need to get away from the unusually long winter of 2008 in Vancouver. Whatever the reason, 25 Regent alumni and current faculty/staff/students congregated in Austin, Texas, making up about 4% of the 600+ attending the Transforming Culture Symposium from April 1-3, 2008.

The conference -- aimed at pastors, church leaders, and artists, and led by David and his collaborator Larry Linenschmidt -- put forth a "vision of a relationship between the church and the arts that is theologically informed, biblically grounded, liturgically sensitive, artistically alive, and missionally shrewd."

It sought to address six key themes and questions: 1. THE GOSPEL: In what way is art a gift, a calling, and an obedience? 2. THE PASTOR: How is the pastor an artist and the artist, a pastor? 3. THE WORSHIP: How can our actions and spaces be artfully shaped? 4. THE ARTIST: What is an artist and how do we shepherd these strange creatures? 5. THE DANGERS: What are the dangers of artistic activity? 6. THE FUTURE: What is a vision of the evangelical Church in the year 2058?

Food metaphors were in plentiful supply.

We were treated to a tasty smorgasbord of talks on these questions by the six plenary speakers: Andy Crouch (author, editorial director for The Christian Vision Project at Christianity Today), Eugene Peterson (author, pastor, Regent professor emeritus), John Witvliet (director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, former Regent Summer School professor), Barbara Nicolosi (screen-writer, consultant, film critic), David Taylor (writer, arts pastor extraordinaire), and Jeremy Begbie (musician-theologian, founder of Theology Through the Arts, former Regent Summer School professor).

Andy talked about art as those aspects of culture that cannot be reduced to utility. Art is a free response to grace; it is play. Like play, pain is also useless. They both must come together in art. Play that doesn't acknowledge pain can become escapism. Pain without play and grace can lead to sadism. Only in Christ can we make art with full awareness of the pain that exists. Andy also pointed out that art cannot be done alone; it requires community.

Eugene was quintessentially Eugene. He told us stories. Stories of three artists who had shaped his pastoral identity by teaching him the difference between a vocation and a job description. There was Willy, the painter, who made a prophetic portrait of Eugene looking gaunt and grim, as he might look in 20 years if he insisted on being a pastor; Willy said "the church will suck the soul out of you" (Eugene didn't take his advice, but kept the portrait as a cautious reminder).

There was Gerard, the architect who came and worshiped for a year with the newly forming church community in Eugene's basement, so that he could listen to who they were and what they needed in a new church building (simple, honest, beautiful).

There was Judith, the weaver, who felt "lucky" to hear the story of David preached for the first time in her life (she had a "beginner's mind, a child mind" as the Buddhists say). She would weave Eugene tapestries of things she'd heard him say. She eventually became a Christian, but none of her artist friends could understand what she saw in it.

With many beautiful projected images, John introduced us to three spiritually nourishing and culturally crucial constraints on art for use in public worship assemblies. 1. It must be corporate, resisting isolation and elitism. 2. It must help people pray, resisting both sentimentality and the temptation to make the art an end in itself. 3. It must aid in perceiving the glory and beauty of the triune God, resisting idolatry.

Barbara, the only Catholic on the panel, and by all accounts the "spiciest" (she had us in stitches with her hilarious and sometimes irreverent quips), spoke first of some of the functions of beauty: its wholeness brings rest, its harmony brings joy, and its radiance brings fulfillment. The beautiful makes us feel small and humble. We have a responsibility as the church to provide art so that people can get in touch with their creatureliness and be okay with it.

Barbara told us how to recognize real artists: their artistic talent shows up early; their work has emotional power; they connect personally to the audience/viewers; their work has a freshness, a prophetic voice; and they are obsessed with details of form. She countered the common misperceptions that artists are crazy or lazy.

Finally, she outlined the "crosses" artists have to bear: loneliness, rejection, instability, entrepreneurism, having to collaborate with people, and the burden of success.

David talked about his passion to see artists as fully integrated persons, mature, and alive to God. To that end, he discussed six dangers of artistic activity in the church: bad art (e.g., cliché, melodrama, impersonal), super-saturation (too much of a good thing), the stubborn ossification of tradition (which he called "estancandose tercamente" -- Spanish for "getting stuck stubbornly"; also known as "the dead faith of the living"), the utilitarian subjugation of art (to worship or evangelism), art as a form of distraction (escape into feeling, entertainment), and immaturity (lack of self-control, manipulation, being ruled by fear).

David gave us three qualities of healthy artistic growth: it is relationally ordered (pastors relating to artists, older to newer generations, home culture to distant cultures), contextually relative (artistic excellence is when a work accomplishes the purpose for which it was created, as Nicholas Wolterstorff said), and organically rhythmed (seasonal, balancing "festal muchness" with "cleansing simplicity").

Finally, Jeremy was charged with predicting what the next 50 years of art in the church would look like. He treated us to an amazing tour-de-force in his typical style, a combination of lecture and performance (he's a fine concert pianist, in addition to sharing initials with J.S. Bach). Using the final movement from Prokofiev's 7th Piano Sonata, and bits of other works, Jeremy demonstrated "hopeful subversion," starting not with where we are now, but rather with a vision of God's future and working backward from there.

His main points were: 1. The Spirit unites the unlike (e.g., people hearing one another in their own tongues at Pentecost). 2. The Spirit generates excess (the same "festal muchness" David talked about; the New Creation is not merely a restoration of balance to the world but vastly exceeds the Garden of Eden). 3. The Spirit inverts (the rich become poor, and the poor rich). 4. The Spirit exposes the depths to which Christ has gone and the depths of who we are (as opposed to sentimental solipsism which avoids darkness). 5. The Spirit recreates (the Resurrection was the first day of the New Creation) 6. The Spirit improvises (the new heaven & new earth is surprisingly, endlessly new). For many, God is dull because he seems so "ordered" -- all word/logos and no spirit. Jeremy invited us to embrace "non-order" (as distinct from disorder), which is the realm of laughter and the Spirit.

Bryan Brown and his team led us in worship that reinforced the principles being espoused in the conference. There was beauty, simplicity, and honest grappling with darkness. The unifying theme was the colors of the rainbow (a work of art by the triune Creator). Each day of the symposium, the lighting was changed to highlight two different colors from the spectrum. We sang some very Regent-ish songs, including Eugene's favorite "St. Patrick's Breastplate" (complete with all the weird rhythms and versification). Visual art, music, dance, and drama were all interwoven with excellence.

In between the keynote lectures and worship times, there were testimonies by practicing artists. There was also a cornucopia of breakout sessions covering everything from The Care of Artists, to Drama, Architecture, Cross-Cultural Mission, Forming an Arts Ministry in the Church, etc. (Recordings of all the plenary lectures and many of the breakout sessions will be available on the conference website at some point in the future.)

In addition to the four plenary speakers with Regent ties, there were also Regent connections with several of the breakout session leaders: Dal Schindell participated in the session on "Seminaries & the Aesthetic Formation of Pastors." Luci Shaw (writer-in-residence and alum) presented "Called & Completed: A Vision for the Vocation and Maturing of the Artist of Faith." Sandra Bowden (whose work has been exhibited in the Lookout Gallery) spoke on "Visual Homiletics: How Can We Preach to the Eye as well as to the Ear?"

As David clarified during one of the Q&A sessions, the title of the symposium meant not that we aim to transform the culture by our art, but that God is in the business of transforming culture, and we are blessed and called to participate in that. What an awesome privilege it was to participate in what I truly believe will be looked back on in generations to come as a key moment in the growing renewal of the arts in the evangelical church that God is in the midst of accomplishing. A tasty morsel indeed!

09 April 2008

SoFoBoMo good for blog stats!

Cool! I just noticed that the number of visitors to my blog has shot up since I started my SoFoBoMo posts. That's a mixed blessing. It's always fun to get more traffic, but it puts the pressure on to keep posting good stuff. I have literally no time to be doing this right now, but I can't keep from looking at the photos I took in Texas. I've selected one that can stand with no post-processing. Oh, sure, I could do stuff to it, like lighten up the shadows at the bottom (or maybe not -- I've just come from the TCS where we heard about the importance of grappling with darkness in art, to avoid glib sentimentality -- not that this photo would be in danger of that without the blackness). Or maybe I could extend the sky a bit on the top to make up for my having been so fascinated by the patterns in the fence rail that I perhaps framed out a bit too much of the environment. Well, I'd better not write more now, or I might just as well have spent this time tweaking photos.

SoFoBoMo: Out of the gate, limping

Sorry again for the long hiatus from posting. I've been in Texas attending the Transforming Culture symposium (I'll be posting more about that here and/or at Iambic Admonit when I have some time). My first day of SoFoBo occurred while I was gone. I'm accepting Paul's allowance that we start our fuzzy month a couple of days early if we have good reason to (I arrived in Fort Worth on 3/29), because I can't pass up the opportunity to take photos when I'm on a trip! And I'm really busy this month (as I will be next month, no doubt), so SoFoBoMo is going to have to fit in somehow in the cracks. I have a feeling this 31-day period is going to be more like an intense 9 day period, followed by nothing for a couple of weeks, followed by another intense 4 day period when I go to Atlanta to visit my brother. I can't seem to get out of all the other obligations that pull at me when I'm at home.

Naturally, many of my photos were of friends I was visiting and of the conference itself (such as this one of Jeremy Begbie playing the last movement of Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 7). Those are not necessarily going to be excluded from eligibility in my SoFoBoMo book. In fact, I've been thinking of writing up a book-format report on the conference and making that be my submission for SoFoBoMo. It could do double duty that way (I'm all about killing two birds with one stone when my life is overwhelmingly busy).


Photography Directory by PhotoLinks