Spirituality in Photography: seeing life through a new lens

2017-06-16 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) A picture is worth a thousand words. But what does it tell us about our spiritual life? Methodist minister Philip Richter sets out to answer that question in a new book entitled ‘Spirituality in Photography: taking pictures with deeper vision’.

A passionate amateur photographer himself, Rev Richter offers a wealth of tips on taking good photos with smart phones or professional cameras. But at the same time, he reflects on how to use those same skills in our search to make sense of contemporary society.

His short, yet deceptively simple volume, is part user manual for photographers, part prayer guide for those seeking a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God and with the world around us.

Richter is in Rome this week for a study tour and a book launch at the Libreria Claudiana in Piazza Cavour on Saturday morning. He dropped in to Vatican Radio to tell Philippa Hitchen more about his work…


Richter begins by talking about his work as ministry development officer for the Methodist Church in England, which he has served for almost four decades.

His book, he explains, is designed both for those who go to a church, as well as for those who “don't do religion” but are nevertheless interested in spiritual questions.

He recalls that he has always had a passion for photography, since the days when he was photographed as a young boy holding an old ‘box brownie’ camera. As a minister, he says, he didn't have money to buy expensive camera equipment, but the advent of digital photography has led to a ‘democritisation’ of the medium.

Digital photography has also brought with it the trend of taking many pictures without a second thought, he says. One of the main goals of the book is to encourage people to “think before they snap” and reflect on how we frame a photo, extending that reflection to consider what we "include and exclude from the picture" in our own lives.

Photography and spirituality can inspire each other, Richter believes, citing the way that perspective in photography can help us develop a better sense of proportion in our busy lives. Rather than being constantly reactive to the latest text or email, he insists, it’s essential to “shelve some things and deal with the really important things and people around you”.

Richter also considers the way pictures can be photo-shopped in a creative way, yet it’s vital that we don’t seek “manipulate the truth”. He encourages people to “see things in a different light”, taking advantage of the so-called ‘golden hours’ just after sunrise and just before sunset.

At its heart, Richter says, the book is about encouraging people to slow down, to enjoy what they do, and “to become truly attentive to the people and places that God has given you”.

(from Vatican Radio)