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About My Photo Prayers:
Photographs Paired with Pleas and Thanksgiving

Link to 2008_16by Danny N. Schweers

For a tentative, often pessimistic man like me, this is a wildly optimistic and daring project. Every time I pair a photo with a prayer, I'm stretched, and not always pleasantly. Finding a resonant combination of words and image is usually difficult. And, if you've already looked at the photos and prayers on this website, you've seen I do not always succeed.

Sometimes I start with a photograph, something that makes me happy, or seems to be speaking to me, usually something shot recently. I have been taking photographs for decades. The world is full of light and meaning. It speaks non-verbally and I try to listen with my eyes. “Look at me,” the world says. “Look at this.” I run for my camera.

Having picked a pic, I "listen" to it. What is it saying? Why did this scene call out for attention? What was I thinking? Photographers seldom think rationally, that is, using language and logic. Instead, they think with their eyes. As you know, the visual cortex takes up about 30% of the brain. It is one kind of challenge to capture in a photo what the eye sees. It is quite another to translate into words what the eye sees.

Link to 2007_30Sometimes, rather than starting with a photo, I start by writing a prayer. Something will have touched me. I will have made a note. From that follows an hour or four refining the words and the ideas behind them, and praying. Once I have a prayer, then I look over my photos, usually hundreds of them. This is a process of saying "No" repeatedly until I can say “Maybe.” Rarely can I say “Yes!” without hesitation. Mixing the visual and the verbal is difficult. When it works, image and text resonate, each offering new insights into each. When it doesn't work, the image becomes merely an illustration, or the words merely a caption.

I am not an ordained minister or even an amateur Christian scholar. Perhaps that's one reason I find the work difficult. Perhaps it is difficult for everyone. I search and experiment, trusting something excellent to appear at the end in spite of the awkwardness of the steps leading there. Do I pray while I'm working? You bet! The prayers themselves are often an answer to prayer. Usually, because I have a deadline each week, I come to a stopping point and publish what I have, trusting in God and readers like you to find something excellent in what I have offered.

Link to 2007_19While photos can be seriously modified these days, I do so rarely. I want to show the world as it is. The world and those in it don't need improvement by me. The world is glorious just as it is; the people, splendid. We don't always see them that way. Usually we don't; at least I don't. Hopefully these photos and prayers are reminders of the truth, that with thankful hearts we may see the gifts God shares, and every blessing.

Link to 2008_04These photo prayers would not happen at all except for the weekly deadlines given me, first by Westminster Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Delaware, and then by Urban Bridge Church in Edmonton, Alberta. I started this project when I was Communications Coordinator for Westminster Presbyterian Church as a way of putting something prayerful in that church's e-mailed newsletter back in 2007. That church still includes these Photo Prayers in its e-newsletters, as do some other churches. Yours can, too!

About Authorship

After a subscriber expressed admiration for my work, I had to disclaim responsibility. Much of my creative process is sub-conscious and serendipitous. That makes me hesitant to claim credit for much of it. In the case of my prayer of April 20, 2017 -- Communion -- I started writing about one thing, then got a brainstorm that times of contentment also carry an implicit invitation to move on. That inspiration resulted in a few lines, which I then expanded on at night while watching the movie “Clear and Present Danger” with Harrison Ford, a movie with lots of gunfire and explosions. The following morning I revised the prayer again. It was only when I was posting it to this website that I realized the line breaks could be easily modified to take the shape of a chalice, and only then did it come to me that the poem was about communion. I wish I could say I started out writing a poem/prayer about communion, but my creativity has little to do with intention or stated goals. I, too, am impressed with the final product. How did I do that? Where did that come from? It is mysteries like this that confirm my faith.

Kind Words From Others

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Because these photo prayers work better individually rather than as a collection, I e-mail them to subscribers. Click here if you would like to subscribe. If you make a comment back to me, I will reply with all the comments, so you can see what everyone said. Often that's quite a discussion!

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