4 Sep 2008
What's your profession? Please describe it.
I'm an Anglican Priest, and Rector of an Anglican Church in Canada. In my work, I lead services of worship, I teach members of my congregation about the Bible, and theology (the understanding of who God is), and I seek to help those who are in need by supporting them emotionally (through counseling), spiritually (through prayer) and occasionally materially.
Where do you do this?
I am the Rector of St. Mary's Anglican Church, Edmonton; located in the city of Edmonton in Alberta, Canada.
Do you enjoy what you do?
I love being a priest. I love being with people, and sharing their lives. There is no honour greater than being invited to share with a family some of their most important life events: baptisms, weddings, and funerals. At these events, I do more than just lead a few rituals. I get to meet the families as they are - with very little pretense. People are vulnerable, and scared, joyful and happy, or sorrowful and uncertain of the future. When people feel such strong emotions, they begin to seek deeper truths, and they ask bigger questions. To be able to share some of those truths, and to offer some answers to those questions is the greatest pleasure I know. So many people are looking for a faith which is bigger than themselves, and I have a unique opportunity and joy to help them find it.
Yes, I enjoy what I do.
When you were young, what did you want to "be" when you grew up?
Like many boys, I wanted to do everything - fireman, policeman, motorcycle stunt guy. But what I wanted to do most, when I was young, was be an astronomer. I was fascinated by the stars and the planets. I grew up (mostly) in the country, and so I could easily see the stars above. I would often sit outside for ages, just watching them slowly turn by as they trekked from horizon to horizon. I asked for books on astronomy for Christmas, and I had a small telescope from Sears.
This is all a bit geeky, I guess, but it started me down a path of seeking out what the world around me was, what it was made of, and how it worked. My father was a professional photographer, and I learned very early to make pictures of the natural world, and I began to explore the environment around me that way. Now, this same interest in the way the world works, and my desire to make images of it point me back to God and to my faith. The beauty of nature, in so many ways, reveals the One who made it.
Do you feel stuck doing what you are doing?
Not at all. It has been a tremendous (and long) journey getting to the place in my life at which I currently am. It took more than 12 years for me to get from wanting to be a priest, to actually living out that calling. Now that I'm here (I was ordained a priest in January of 2007) I have learned that very little of being a priest is as I had imagined, but that there is far more satisfaction than I had feared.
What are the most and least satisfying parts of your job?
I would say that the most personally satisfying part of my job is working with the bereaved. I know it sounds morbid, but people really let their guard down after they've lost a loved one. They are in many ways more truly themselves than at any other point in their lives, and they are more open to asking the big questions of life (who am I? what am I here for? is there more than just this?) which so many people just avoid most of the rest of the time. Being a part of the process of answering those questions, and being able to offer words of comfort and companionship in grief allow me truly to feel that I am making a difference in people's lives. And there is nothing more satisfying than that.
The least satisfying part of my job has got to be the administrative aspect of running a parish church. There's paperwork, endless meetings, and constant negotiations about how best to use resources, and how best to accomplish parish goals. I find these necessary, but tedious, tasks most unsatisfying.
How do you combine photography with your job?
I use photography for two purposes. First, I use it as a part of my spiritual discipline - as an aspect of prayer. Following on the philosophical approach to photography of Freeman Patterson, I use the images I make to explore who I am as a person, and how I'm developing. I look for common themes, symbols, colours and textures that recurr in my work. Finding them, I attempt to seek meaning in them - what am I communicating about my spiritual life, what is God revealing to me about myself, or the world around me, to which I need to be attentive, or for which I need to take action.
The second primary use of my photography, is in the exploration of the world that God has made, and the communication of that world in a way that tells a story. My faith tells me that all things were made by God, and for a purpose. As such all things have a story, a narrative which speaks to that purpose. I attempt to make images which tell that story, and communicate to the viewer something of the majesty, beauty and power of the created world.
Anything else you'd like to add?
One of the things my father taught me when I first began to make images, was that sometimes, as beautiful as it is, nature needs improving. The scene as it is found may be beautiful to the eye, but the photographer may need to make creative changes in translating that scene to the film (or sensor, or what have you). I have always carried this with me, and as such, I'm not a photographic purist. I believe that emphasizing telling the story, allows the photographer to make changes to the scene, or to the image in post work. In the end, it is the story of the subject that is being captured, not the subject itself. I'd rather tell a compelling story than religiously (pun intended) insisting upon 100% real world accuracy, which is generally impossible anyway.
This narrative approach to the making of images has a spiritual tone behind it, as well. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote about how the creator of fictional worlds participates with God in His creative work. I believe the same is true for the photographer - in the making of images of the real world we join with God in His creation.