Hopelifters Photographer, Starr Ayers
My Swinger Years
I am a third generation artist, and for an artist a camera is an indispensable tool. I purchased my first camera in high school―a Polaroid Swinger which was manufactured in the late ‘60s and sold for $19.95. The Swinger developed black and white photos on the spot and featured a display window that would read “YES” when the exposure was set correctly and “NO” when it was not. Extremely cutting edge, don’t you think?
My introduction to serious photography was in college. Photography 101 was a required freshman course at the Atlanta School of Art. It was time to leave my Swinger days behind and advance into the Dark Ages. Sporting a 120 mm, Yashica D box camera, I learned the process of developing film and printing 8×10 black and white glossies in a studio darkroom.
My Years of Digital Bliss
I am not sure how many cameras I’ve owned since then, but I know I have driven my family senseless throughout the years snapping photographs. A generation later, my family is beginning to appreciate their well documented lives, but they still moan when asked to cheese it up for the camera.
A phrase from a recent Nicholas Sparks’ movie, Safe Haven, continues to resonate within my spirit.
“Take plenty of pictures. You’ll only regret the ones you didn’t take.”
Shortly before crossing the threshold of 2011, I committed to creating a 365-day photo journal. Deep within the throes of the Digital Age and loving it, I incorporated scripture with each photograph along with a quote or inspired meditation and posted one photo a day on my Facebook page. Thinking back on my decision to begin this journal, I am convinced it was God’s Spirit who planted the seed in my mind and gave me the ability to follow through with such an immense undertaking.
From Bliss to Benevolent Blessing
In December of 2010, my sister and I placed our ninety-one-year-old mother in a nursing home. Anyone who has walked this path knows the emotional toll it takes on a family. God, in his grace, used my love for photography as a diversion from the events that were beginning to unfold. My frequent thirty-minute drives to and from the nursing home became occasions for me to collaborate with the Lord and focus on our next daily post.
“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs.
When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ―Ansel Adams
Four days into my pictorial journey, I discovered an abandoned nest in a wooded lot adjacent to the healthcare facility where my mother had resided for a mere 22 days. As I focused my camera lens on its poignant beauty, God softly spoke to me of another “abandoned nest” . . . one, whose tenant would never return. I will always cherish that encounter and the bittersweet token of beauty God tenderly placed on my difficult path . . . simply to say, “I am here.”
“Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” ―Matthew 13:16
My mother died that September, and the following days were filled with God’s tangible affirmations of his presence. I am grateful I was given the opportunity to share one of these memorable encounters in Kathe’s soon to be released book, Hopelifter, Creative Ways to Spread Hope When Life Hurts.Unable to include within the book the photograph which shaped the story, I am pleased to show the image for “Morning’s Glory” here.
Although my commitment to my 365-day photo journal is complete, I continue to sport my camera like a wrist watch―not wanting to miss a moment of God’s spontaneous entries onto the pages of my life.
Even now as I write, before I have even put the period on my previous sentence, a butterfly has become entangled in a spider’s web outside the window only inches from my desk. Because my camera is not far from reach, I am able to capture another divinely orchestrated moment. This unassuming creature is oblivious to the fact that it is being held captive by not one, but two predators―a spider and the unrelenting lens of my camera. I observe and listen for God to speak.
For a few seconds, this beautiful creature sits motionless as if to assess its unexpected turn of events. I, too, am still; watching to see what will take place. It flutters, but only for a split second. No panic or frantic display of energy is exhibited; simply one brief effort to see, if indeed, it is caught. Powerless to fly, it submits to its tethered state. I contemplate rescuing it, but continue to maintain my vigil. Within moments, a sudden burst of wind shakes the web, and its captive is set free.
So often, life throws unexpected difficulty our way. We spend countless hours and energy trying to free ourselves from our discomfort. Perhaps, like the butterfly, we would spend less time in captivity, with minimal after effects if we simply chose to be still long enough for God to intervene. Could it be that our unyielding efforts only ensnare us further and cause us to miss what God ultimately desires for us to see?
“I draw my greatest pleasure, not from capturing the moment, but from the moment capturing me.” ―Starr Ayers
From Darkness to Light
I am drawn to Mark’s account of Jesus healing the blind man. Jesus touched him once and then asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hand on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”(Mark 8:22-26, NIV)
Above all, God desires for us to know him―to capture our hearts through any means, at any place, and at any time. He wants to manifest himself not only through the obvious but through what, upon first glance, we perceive as ordinary. As the blind man in the text, we must often take a second glance at our surroundings in order to bring life clearly into focus. We must look beyond the obvious, and expectantly listen for God to speak.
My prayer is that those who view my photographs will be inspired to pause and take a second glance at the world around them, to be captivated by its detail, and yet not miss the bigger picture: to experience God, and stand in awe of his presence.
“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” ―Romans 1:2, NIV