Each day during Lent (2016), I am going through some sixty years of photographs and choosing some images to write about. I’m not working through any grand plan here, just beginning each day by looking through some photos, choosing one that particularly draws my aDSC02286.jpgttention, and then letting the Spirit lead as I write a few words.

This is a Lenten discipline for me. Not sure what it will be for you. Maybe a curiosity. Helpful in some way, I hope.

So, today’s image: nothing breathtaking…just a picture of a camera. I bought it sometime in my “junior high” years, to replace my first camera, which had been a Christmas gift from my parents. I don’t know if I had asked for that first camera for Christmas, or if Dad and Mom just thought I’d like it. I was thrilled. I also don’t remember why I needed to replace the first with this Ansco Color Clipper. But both cameras enticed a young kid to start seeing life through a viewfinder.

The vast majority of cameras these days don’t even have viewfinders. People hold up their cell phones, camcorders, and digital cameras a foot or so away from their faces and frame their pics with electronic LCD screens. But there are advantages to a good old-fashioned optical viewfinder. That’s the little “window” above the lens on my ancient Ansco.

A theme for today could be the idea that looking through that viewfinder blocks everything else from view.  The photographer is focused only on what can be seen through that small tunnel of lenses. Yes, tunnel vision. While life happens around us, we who look through the viewfinder to center on one thing of interest. We compose our view, ignoring all but that central focus, and when we are pleased with the potential result, we push a button, and hope for the best.

Now in years past, way past, the cameras didn’t focus themselves automatically. Looking through the “range finder” (as it was called) didn’t guarantee good results no matter how carefully and/or artistically one had framed the subject. Focus with that Ansco meant some guesswork: how far away was the subject? Close-up, or distant? My little sister in her crib, or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington? Only when the film was developed did the photographer know if the picture had been worth taking.

So, I guess where I’m headed here is the idea of focus. Centering. Looking carefully. Ignoring for a time the surrounding culture, its clutter and clatter, and finding that one important object or subject, that single thing that calls to you to be kept, saved, held.

I’ve saved hundreds of the big square transparencies and prints I took with that range finder camera as a teenager. Looking back, I see that my focus — once brief moments I wanted to preserve and share — became, in time, a mixture of history, nostalgia, and memories of beloved relationships.

There must be a metaphorical lesson in here somewhere. How about this: Lent is that forty day period when we can focus on what’s most important.

Easter is most certainly the light at the end of our darkest tunnel, a vision of life we might overlook if we don’t focus on the main things that vie for our attention.

Look around. Something good will come into view. Something really good.

 

 

 

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