This article appears online and in print in U.S. Catholic magazine’s August 2017 issue. An except is below. Read the full article here.
I remember the following from the life of 14-year-old me:
A search for something larger and more meaningful than the place and time I occupied
A voice that struggled to be heard and to resist conformity
A commitment to truth-telling and authenticity
A fully manual film camera
Unlike other visual arts, photography deals in real life, literally “writing or drawing with light.” Early on I saw the power of photography to capture reality and also influence and transform others. Taking photos of my high school classmates engaged in sports earned me their respect. Documenting little moments and larger narratives to open others’ eyes, draw out their empathy, and move them to action was the fullest form of self-actualization I had uncovered.
While my love of photography flourished, my faith journey waxed and waned. A confirmation class dropout, I returned to church briefly during my college years, then left after my academic skepticism won out over faith. As an adult, I found a church home with my husband that accepted me where I was at on my spiritual path: doubting but listening.
One day, somewhere in my mid-30s and 10 years into a professional marketing career—a career that matched my extroverted personality and education but that, truth be told, I had pursued at the strong encouragement of my endlessly practical parents—I became preoccupied with my own mortality. The preoccupation was enhanced by a sudden illness and a suicide of two peers, a stillborn niece, a grandmother whose body finally gave out at age 94, and a beloved dog struck down by cancer. Then one friend succumbed to a brain tumor and another went into remission—for now. Meanwhile sermons coming from the pulpit of our new church spoke of salt and lights that shouldn’t be hidden under bushels. I had reached a critical point where there wasn’t a moment to waste. I’d cast aside the bushel or set the thing ablaze.