When I took up photography a few years ago I attended some local camera club meetings. As part of those meetings, the club held contests at each meeting that included several categories like wildlife, nature, etc. And the club enforced the rules without question. A nature photograph with a single human-made item in the frame could not be considered in the nature category. While I understood the idea of forcing one to think about the category, it caused the participants and club leaders to focus on the minutiae of the category rather than if the photo told an effective story about nature. I didn’t last long in the club.
This idea of putting things into slots has been on my mind lately. I understand that we humans find it helpful to categorize things in life. But the practice is harmful, in my view, although I probably do it without being aware I’m doing it. As society we easily put people into categories based on color, education, wealth, weight, religion, and more. But slotting creates walls and keeps us from considering fully the value of humans who might be different from us. Categories like wealth or religion (or any others) may reveal certain characteristics about a person but they don’t fully reveal one’s heart or soul.
I took this photo on a neighborhood walk with my dog tonight. The photo wouldn’t fit into the camera club’s strict nature category because I’ve modified it from its actual appearance and have included human-made elements. The way I’ve presented it would probably fit more appropriately into the abstract category. I don’t really care these days what category something fits into because I’ve shared a photo of my walk in a human-centric world that contains items from the natural world like trees, sky, and wind. The photo’s essence is an expression of my interaction with nature. It’s a nature photo, reimagined.
During this time of Lent leading to the remembrance of Palm Sunday, the events of Maundy Thursday, the crucifixion, the empty tomb, and beyond, I think the message for me is the work Jesus did for humanity by breaking down categories and other walls and transforming the world. That work and message may seem to be missing these days as religion co-opts Jesus’s message of love and compassion since we humans seem always eager to erect new and limiting categories.
When I think of the Jesus message, I think…humanity, reimagined.