January 21, 2021

Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart: Contemplative Photography, part one

Rome Fountain. Photo by Christine Valters Paintner

Seeing with the Eyes of the Heart
Contemplative Photography, part one

This past month has been a time focusing on extraordinary events in our life that revolve around relocating and getting settled into a new house. As a result, several things have gone by the wayside, including photography. I’m ready to charge up my camera’s batteries and get out there again in days to come.

And I’m excited to be accompanied on the next stage of my photographic journey by the thoughts of Christine Valters Paintner, author of Eyes of the Heart: Photography as a Christian Contemplative Practice.

Photography has always been a way for me to see more deeply, but my awareness of how this was an experience of prayer and often an encounter with the sacred emerged over time. It wasn’t until I embraced monastic spirituality in my late twenties that I began to experience photography consciously as a contemplative practice. I made a commitment as a Benedictine oblate at St. Placid Priory to deepen my own contemplative path. I began to see photography as a way to slow down and gaze deeply, noticing things I missed in my rushed life. For me, the camera provided an encounter with the eternal moment — that place in which I was able to suddenly become so present to what I was gazing upon that I lost track of time, allowing eternity to break in. It became a tool for deeper vision, supporting and enlivening contemplative seeing.

As my work began to take contemplative form, I began publishing my photos on my website AbbeyoftheArts.com in a prayerful and reflective context, as an adjunct to my writing. A global, online monastery, the website is dedicated to the integration of contemplative practice and creative expression. And in inviting others into contemplative space with me visually, I have been able to ask people to pause on a particular moment in time and see an aspect of the holy revealed in that image.

I encourage you to check out Abbey of the Arts, which I’ve added to our link list. Meanwhile, here on a weekly basis for the near future, I hope to link Paintner’s insights from Eyes of the Heart with photographs from my new surroundings and my own reflections about them. In so doing, I hope to welcome you into the journey which she invites us to share:

The process of art-making or prayer becomes a journey of discovery, where we open ourselves to what is being revealed moment by moment, rather than what we hope or expect to see. This book offers an invitation to transform photography into a spiritual practice by attending to the process, and thereby deepening our relationship to God, to the world around us, and to ourselves.

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Photo by Christine Valters Paintner at Flickr. Creative Commons License


  1. Susan Dumbrell says

    we smell bush fire smoke
    refiners fire burn in us
    kindle us anew

  2. Susan Dumbrell says

    Haiku for my husband’s 75th birthday.
    May our Lord Jesus gently care for him and bless him.

    see me, I am here
    do not leave me all alone
    carry my burden

    Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
    Matthew 11 v29,30.

    pray with me, Susan

    • –> “see me, I am here”

      Love the phrasing of that. Sets the tone, for sure.

      The Matthew blurbs of Matthew 11:28-30 are my all-time favorite go-to verses.

      i feel all alone
      look, the great i am is here
      please lift my burden

    • Beautiful haiku, Susan. It brought tears to my eye. Happy Birthday to your husband from me.

      we all continue
      dead to death in Jesus’ life
      beyond our own fears

  3. –> “…a journey of discovery, where we open ourselves to what is being revealed moment by moment, rather than what we hope or expect to see.”

    I wonder how much of Jesus’ time on earth was a journey of discovery for him. There do seem to be instances where things seem to be revealed moment by moment rather than what he expected to see.

    Then there are others, not so much.

  4. Christiane says

    lovely photograph!

    perfect for the post 🙂

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