by Natalie Donovan
Sometimes when words fail me, which happens more often than I would like, I let my mind wander to where I’d like to go next. This need to explore and discover new lands, new oceans, and the flavors of life is what I dream about every day.
How I enjoy to live those explorations is with my camera in hand. No adventure ever is looked back on without some pictures, so why not capture the beauty of those small and sometimes remarkable moments?
Who I Am Meant to Be
There is something purely magical in the way light, and sometimes lack of light, is captured against a vast landscape, in the details of a small flower, and surrounding candid moments with friends and family. Photography is one of my favorite forms of creating art because I see the way God created the earth, the moon, the stars, and of course human beings.
I grew up in a free-spirit and world-traveling household where emotional intelligence was valued and having a sense of self was essential in creating or expressing. We were bound to live and be just as we were in that moment. Maybe it seems a little unconventional, but life was best lived in those small moments.
Sadly, I never saw myself as an artist.
Sadly, I never saw myself as an artist. I saw myself as a creative individual because I was created to create by the Creator. I just never claimed the title of an artist. Looking back though, I had always wanted to declare that part of who I was. An artist. That’s what I grew up dreaming to be. But I also realize I desired to travel and capture the beauty all around me. And now I get to claim that.
Why did I just bring you along for a quick journey into a significant part of who I am? Because now, I am living out these dreams by volunteering as a photographer at my church. I don’t get to do it often because photography is my joy in life only as a hobby, but when I get the opportunity to let myself be who I am meant to be, I feel alive. And this is the whole point of the story.
No Longer Living for Ourselves
A few weeks ago, I was asked to photograph a Rooted celebration. Rooted is a 10-week study with a focused small group. What’s unique about the Rooted experience, like any small group, is that you go into it without knowing anyone (maybe besides your significant other or a friend), and by the end of 10 weeks you have gone through some huge milestones together and now feel known. At the end of the 10 weeks there is a feast in honor of bearing each other’s burdens and truly feeling free of those burdens. I forgot how powerful this night is.
As I was capturing moments, I saw people. I saw the people in my church community who I never experienced life with. I saw and photographed laughter, tears, joy, and freedom. Five people came to Christ that night and we cheered in joy because we knew how much better life can be for those souls—living a boundless life in love for Christ. Life will never be the same for them. They worshiped together, and I joined in between photographing.
What I love about photographing worship, communion, and baptisms are the raw and inexpressible emotions. There is freedom in those moments because we are not living for ourselves anymore. We are not living in the the messiness of the week, and the chains that hold us back no longer exist.
After the feast we went downstairs in our church’s main lobby where there were baptism pools set up for whoever desired. And people stepped up. Five people stepped out and not only said yes to Christ, but became immersed into the Christian life. They accepted and embodied Christ’s sacrifice by going under the water, and being raised with Christ, they rose up. They rose up being forgiven of their sins and remarkably began a new life.
New Adventures to Capture
For me, because I work in ministry, although not day-to-day in the church setting, I hear about these kind of stories almost weekly, but it is entirely different experiencing those encounters firsthand. It was beautiful seeing my church in such an incredibly intimate moment. It’s amazing to watch people present themselves to the world as now living a transformed life. I remember being at the first service that my church had over eight years ago. Since then I’ve seen a lot of growth, and it was beautiful seeing how far we’ve come.
Maybe you are like me—removed from this story, the lights, the worship band, and the pastor that spoke over these new believers, but maybe these pictures will help bring this story to life for you.
I’ve come a long way in my artist journey, and in no way do I see myself being a full-fledged photographer yet (I still have a hard time claiming that too since I’m just beginning my journey). Still—there is life to be lived and moments of trusting God and hoping for new adventures to capture.
posted on July 10, 2018
Meet the Author:
Natalie Donovan, when not photographing moments or writing about the in-betweens of life, can be found at vintage stores, exploring national parks, or celebrating life with friends and family. To see more of her work, visit it her on Instagram: @Natalieswanderings.
All photos ©Natalie Donovan 2018