Every person I see has a story. The reckless driver on the highway is going to meet his new granddaughter. The rambunctious teenagers at the mall are begging to be noticed in a world that feels overwhelmingly lonely. The grumpy cashier hasn’t had lunch because the store was too busy for her to get a break. Everyone has a story.
As a photographer, my joy is to see people. My job is to show my clients what I see.
My degree in Public Policy from a liberal arts college didn’t teach me how to set the aperture on my camera, my professors didn’t teach me how to use strobe lights for off-camera flash, my homework assignments didn’t teach me proper exposure and exceptional composition. But my liberal arts degree did teach me to see where my client came from, it taught me to see where my client is, it taught me see to where my client is going.
When I photograph a bride on her wedding day, I know that God created her to be beautiful. She’s not beautiful because she’s wearing a white dress and has been to the spa and has professionally styled hair, though. God created her to be beautiful because He created every human in His image (Genesis 1:27) and God said that it was good (Genesis 1:31) and if God says it’s good, then we can know beyond a doubt that it’s really really really good.
I can celebrate the beauty of a bride on her wedding day because her beauty is intrinsic. I see that beauty because I believe in a God who created her.
But in the Fall of Adam and Eve, sin has taken over. The human race fell. We are flawed. History happened. Everything that happens on a photo shoot is most clearly seen in the context of history. The family works hard to look beautiful because perception of beauty and self-worth is marred by jealousy and discontent and pride, the celebration of family is a celebration of (flawed) humans navigating a web of sin to make it to a beautiful story, the art I create is necessary only because our memories are imperfect and a photograph will last longer than our marred brain cells.
I photograph a family portrait because time is fleeting and memories are fickle. I freeze moments in time so that they can come back to remember the togetherness when days are sin-filled and fraught with pain.
I can’t claim to know the details of the future, but I know that history will repeat itself (again!), that people will fail each other (again!) and that - hallelujah! - beauty will one day be permanent and unmarred. When Christ wipes away all tears (Revelation 21:1-4), beauty will be permanent and perfect.
In my four years of classes at Patrick Henry College, I studied theology and history and government and literature. Those classes weren’t just a lecture, a quiz, a paper, an exam, a grade. No. Through those classes, I learned to see the patterns in classic stories that translate to patterns in modern stories. I learned to evaluate current events in light of historical context. I learned to apply the Bible’s principles to a sin-infested world.
I see people all around me; I photograph the people I see because I learned how to see people through my liberal arts degree.
By Jennifer (Pinkerton) van Leeuwen, Public Policy, 2007
This is the first in a series of posts from alumni entitled "Why Liberal Arts?"