Guest / Limited Access /

The doctor was an enthusiastic amateur photographer, sporting a pricey Canon digital SLR. His college-aged daughter seemed more interested in my good-looking, single friend than in the fine points of wildlife photography, but she had a point-and-shoot camera of her own. We were in southern Kenya's Masai Mara doing what Westerners usually do there, much to the perplexity (and profit) of the local residents: tearing up the virgin veldt in four-wheel-drive Land Rovers, cameras at the ready, in search of photogenic animals.

One of the most reliable instincts of modern people, at times of surpassing transcendence—witnessing the first kiss at a wedding, watching our children's first steps, encountering a family of cheetahs gnawing on a freshly killed gazelle—is to grab a camera. At other places and times people might have written a poem, sung a song, or carved a totem pole. But we, captive to the notion that the only lasting reality is virtual, illuminate our transcendent moments with flashbulbs.

The digital age, where film is effectively free, is an era of even more promiscuous photography. By next year, the Gartner Group predicts, 80 percent of cell phones sold in the United States will include a camera. Users of camera phones don't need to wait for carefully chosen moments. Instead they collect what the rapidly growing photo website Flickr calls a photostream—a river of images both momentous and mundane.

Many centuries after the shift from oral to written culture, we are now well along in the transition to visual culture—where the predominant mode of communication is images rather than words. Just as the shift to writing required the skills we call literacy, so visual culture requires its own skills—for ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedWhy Pastors Should Preach About Body Image
Why Pastors Should Preach About Body Image
Our obsession with appearance has theological ramifications for both women and men.
TrendingMark Driscoll Steps Down While Mars Hill Investigates Charges
Mark Driscoll Steps Down While Mars Hill Investigates Charges
(UPDATED) Driscoll offers 8-step solution to followers: 'Current climate is not healthy for me or for this church.'
Editor's PickCan You See Too Much Jesus in the Bible?
Can You See Too Much Jesus in the Bible?
Why one seminary thinks so and is sending an Old Testament scholar into early retirement.
Comments
Christianity Today
Visualcy
hide thisJune June

In the Magazine

June 2005

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.