Eyes of the Heart in Photography

Eyes of the Heart in Photography May 14, 2013

Review of Eyes of the Heart by Christine Valters Paintner


Eyes of the Heart, by Christine Valters Paintner, is about using photography to see images with the heart, rather than just “seeing” them in a technical sense.  As a professional photographer, I was very interested in reading how I could both better my creative view of my work and also draw closer through photography to my Great Creator who lovingly put all things on this earth for us to enjoy.

I had a shoot the very evening I started reading. I was impressed with the beginning and looking forward to delving further into the book. And yet in the end it wasn’t as good as the opening promised. As a photographer, the book inspired me to take a deeper and different perspective on the world around me. However, as a Christian I thought the book wasn’t the Gospel-centered devotional I was hoping for.

The author does a good job of opening the reader’s eyes to see things differently. Paintner encourages you to take out your camera and shoot what inspires you. One thing Paintner pointed out was that you don’t need a professional, high-quality camera and lens to take pictures of the things you like. I agree with this, since I often don’t feel like lugging around my big camera. Instead, I’ll opt for my iPhone and then use the various apps to edit the image.

I also appreciated Paintner’s encouragement to go for a walk on a “Photographic Exploration” after each chapter. On this exploration walk, you were told to find and shoot images that were talked about in the chapters. She taught you how to engage your eyes to see things that you normally wouldn’t—such as how the light constantly changes shape or how it bounces off objects to cast light on a wall (which makes for a softer, different kind of light). She further encourages you to actually notice the world around you in a poetic way, rather than just a technical one. The photo walks were a great way to encourage new (and old) photographers to absorb the theme of each chapter of the book.

For all the good photography advise, from a Christian perspective the “spiritual advice” seemed to me to be more of a “meditative-yoga-breath in the good/out the bad” kind of spirituality. For example, she regularly mentions taking a moment before going on your Photographic Exploration to center yourself by breathing in and out in a meditative way. What I rarely found was Scripture that pointed me to a loving Creator, and how the Gospel of Jesus plays out in his creation. She tells the reader to use photography to take a deeper look into one’s self. She doesn’t point the reader to Scripture or to how a loving Creator has made all things for his glory and our enjoyment. (Though again, the introduction was encouraging, as was chapter 8.)

At the beginning of each chapter, Paintner would provide a few inspirational quotes (mostly from poets). She did include a few verses from the Bible, but some of them seemed to have been taken out of context. I would have liked to see more Scripture in the book as well as a discussion of how God put all things into being. For example, I would’ve taken verses from the Psalms because the author, David, was an emotional man who used his artistry to meditate on both his sinfulness and the hope that is to come through Jesus Christ.

She also provided reflection questions at the end of each chapter. The questions were mostly self-centered. While there were some great questions about photography skills and how to put the exploration walks into practice, generally I did not find the questions to be looking outward to Christ or to Scripture. So I wouldn’t recommend it to those who want to draw closer to Jesus because there wasn’t much Gospel “meat” in the book. This would, however, be a good source for a group of photographers looking to build their creative eye in a poetic way. I was certainly more encouraged as a photographer than I was as a Christian.

This book was provided for free by the publisher on the condition that I review it. I was not required to write a positive review.

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