Christine Valters Paintner is the online Abbess at the Abbey of the Arts, a virtual global monastery without walls offering retreats, classes, books, and resources to nurture contemplative practice and creative expression. A writer, artist, spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and teacher, she earned her doctorate in Christian Spirituality from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley and her professional status as Registered Expressive Arts Consultant and Educator (REACE) from the International Expressive Arts Therapy Association.
In the introduction to this paperback, Paintner writes:
"Photography as a spiritual practice combines the active art of image-receiving with the contemplative nature and open-heartedness of prayer. It cultivates what I call sacred seeing or seeing with the 'eyes of the heart' (Ephesians 1:18). This kind of seeing is our ability to receive the world around us at a deeper level than surface realities."
In an adventuresome opening chapter, the author takes us on an exhilarating spiritual ride with reflections on beauty, the art of beholding, the heart as the source of vision, the third eye, and Thomas Merton as photographer. These musings set the course for Paintner's commentary on contemplative photography not as taking pictures but receiving images as a gift. She suggests a morning walk where the camera becomes a tool that helps us cultivate a deeper appreciation of the life that pulsates in our everyday activities.
Photography also is a means whereby we pay closer attention to the play of light and dark, illumination and shadow in our days and in our doings. In two chapters on the visual framing of elements and on the significance and impact of color, Paintner probes visual discernment. As a Christian contemplative practice, photography also enables us to polish our inner mirrors and to discover the holy within ourselves and in everything around us.
Throughout the book, Paintner shares thoughtful questions and presents spiritual practices. She closes with this:
"May your vision become clearer,
may your heart become more free,
may the eyes of your heart
reveal the newness of the world
at every turn."