Framing Faith, by Matt Knisely
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Thomas Nelson Press/BookLook in exchange for an honest book review.]
When I was a kid, my uncle got married and while my brother got to be the ring bearer in the wedding, it was my job to assist another one of my uncles as a photographer’s assistant. As a result of running around to fetch various camera equipment and film, I did not end up in a single photo of the event, which bothered me a little bit, as it was a sign of my ability to avoid being a frequent subject of photographs that has continued throughout most of my life. Of interest as well is that photography happened to be a major interest of my father, which meant that most of my photographs as a child were due to the work of my father in seeking to memorialize the limited time he spent with my brother and I, or were annual school photos. While I am certainly not a very proficient or prolific photographer, it is an interest I am familiar with and an art I greatly respect.
I give this personal introduction because this particular work is written by a photographer (an Emmy-award winning photojournalist, no less) who gave up a career in television work to focus on Christian ministry. Not only does this book contain quite a lot of black-and-white photographs taken by the author, some of which appear to have symbolic meaning, but the language of this book is one of photography, using the subject as an extended metaphor for our Christian walk. The book is divided into three sections, focus, capture, and develop, and that deal with the three stages of capturing images in photos, and contains chapters on such important matters as discovering ourselves, paying attention to others (and ourselves), dealing with matters like purpose and perfection (which can be barrier to growth and to relationships with others) and listening. Later chapters of the book go into more technical matters of photography like capturing the moment, understanding perspective and subject and composition, and dealing with processing, shadow, and light. This particular book is clearly the one of someone who is extremely attentive to details but prefers to discuss biblical stories in a broad brush and summary rather than quotation and explication.
To be sure, this is an intensely personal work as well, and one that succeeds in winning the readers’ sympathies for showing attention to art in an age where the image is much more highly regarded than the word. The author appears to see in the image (as in photography and graphic design) as a way of providing an impetus to the Church, and laments the lack of artistic commissions given to contemporary artists. For some readers, this focus on the image, and not the word, may seem perilously close to idolatry. Fortunately, although the author (like many people) overstates the role of oral tradition and understates the earliness and centrality of writing to the process of scripture , most of the time he talks about real people with an obvious sympathy for them and attention to details. In fact, the author confesses himself as having had a learning disability that led him to take in too many details and be overwhelmed by them and unable to sit still or pay attention too well, something I can relate to rather well. It is the author’s obvious concern for people and their well-being that makes this book ultimately an encouragement to slow down, disconnect from our electronics for a little while, and learn how to connect with the people around us and the beauty’s of God’s creation. This is very useful encouragement, though likely only to be heard by those who are willing to slow down and spend some time reading to begin with, precisely the people who are likely to already be doing what the author suggests. This said, we can all use the encouragement to take the time to listen to others and show concern for their needs .
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