Letting Photos Speak

lone paddleboarder walsk across a beach at sunset with heavy dark clouds dominating; Silver Award logo from Guild of Photographers

Sunset by Steve Radley

Letting Photos Speak is a new book for anyone who takes photos, on standard cameras or smartphones, and who wants to explore personal meaning and well-being through their pictures. One of its authors, Steve Radley, a past participant on CMS’s Make Good course, explains how it came to be.

Book cover shows someone taking a smartphone image of Christmas lights in the form of a giant angel
Letting Photos Speak: Visio Divina and Other Approaches to Contemplative Photography by Stephen J Radley, Philip J Richter and Andy J Lindley is published by Dartman, Longman and Todd.

It all started with a meeting in the CMS tent during Greenbelt 2019 between Andy and me. Andy, who uses photography in the church he leads, had heard about my photography retreats and was a friend of Philip Richter, a Methodist minister and gifted practical theologian who had recently written a book on the spirituality of photography.

Our initial idea was to develop an app for creating a ‘book of hours’ but this proved fraught with difficulties. However, as we looked at our research, we realised we had the makings of a book, so Philip approached DLT with whom he had previously published. They loved our idea and commissioned us to write Letting Photos Speak.

Our book is designed for readers of all faiths and none. We begin by exploring some of the common ground between Christian contemplation and mindfulness and the effects that photography can have on wellbeing. We outline some ways of exploring meanings in photos, ranging from theological reflection to visio divina, and consider how photography can function as a place of unrushed reflection or contemplation, involving the mind, emotions, and body.

tranquil panormaic river scene at sunrise
Photo: Stephen Radley

Drawing on our experience of employing photography in sacred and secular contexts, leading retreats and running workshops, we include several practical exercises to ‘let photos speak’ and help readers connect with themselves, others, nature, and God.

The book also offers some practical examples of how images can speak effectively in group contexts, such as workshops and alternative styles of worship.

“We believe photography can be an eye opener, helping us to see the beauty of the world in new ways, but we also believe photography can be deeply spiritual. By this, we mean it can help us reflect on the world, our place within the world, and what it means to be alive.”
– Stephen J. Radley, Philip J. Richter & Andy J. Lindley

At the end, we invite readers to draw together their reflections in a personal photo journal, inspired by the ancient practice of keeping a ‘Book of Hours’, using reflective prompts and innovative bookmark overlays.

view of night sky with thousands of stars framed by trees and roof of a country house
Photo: Stephen Radley

Our inspiration to write this book is found within our shared interest in photography and spirituality and the ways in which photography can be used to access the benefits of mindfulness and contemplation.

In a fast-paced society, it can be difficult to slow down and become aware of the present moment. We were keen to write a book which said, ‘Hey, let’s use some of the inventions from the attention-grabbing economy to help us appreciate the beauty of the world that we so often miss when we are rushing from task to task.’

You can purchase the book from most leading retailers. For a limited time, you can get a 60 per cent discount direct from the publisher by using the discount code – SUMMER – during checkout.

The CMS Make Good course has helped shaped my ministry. You can learn more about my work or book me to lead a workshop or quiet day on my website: www.soulfulvision.uk

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