Once again, I am so in awe of what I get to do in telling these beautiful stories. Kari Ann and I grew up in the same city, went to the same college, and have some very similar passions. I love what she is doing working with 100 cameras as she lives abroad in China with her hubby, Bryan. For all of you artists out there – this one’s for you!!
Anybody can change the world: I’m just full of wonder.
I look at the world around me and am filled with curiosity. About the people, the places, and their stories. I see the world as an artist’s canvas, and I am in awe.
“Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.”
But this story isn’t just about wonder, it’s also about wander. There have been so many unexpected twists and turns in my journey.
I always thought I would stay in Texas. I love horses, wide open fields, and Texas sunsets. But when I went to New England one summer after college to visit my grandfather and stopped in NYC to visit a few college friends, that all changed. During the two weeks I spent wandering the city with one friend in particular, Bryan, I knew there was something special happening between us. Six months later, I packed two suitcases and moved to the big city.
It didn’t take long to fall in love with the city. Meanwhile, Bryan and I fell in love, got engaged, and were making plans to settle down in NYC. In the weeks leading up to our wedding, we redecorated his apartment, repainted every room, and talked about our future as city-dwellers. We thought we would put down roots there, but (surprise!) two weeks after our honeymoon, we were packing for Portland, Oregon.
Portland was not an easy adjustment for me. It was 2008, and although my company from NYC kept me on for three months after we moved, I had difficulty finding a position in the finance industry after that. During that time I struggled to put my identity in Christ alone. With prayer and support from our amazing church family, I eventually decided to finish my master’s degree, took a few contract positions, and felt more content with God’s path for me.
Over three years, I came to love so many things about Portland – the local food movement, massive farmer’s markets, wine country, local craftsmanship, the forests, and coffee. But we never thought we would stay in Portland long term. Our plan was to go back to NYC or maybe somewhere in Europe next. And just as we thought we were headed to Amsterdam for a three year assignment, (surprise again!) we were packing for Shanghai.
Our move to Shanghai was another challenge for me. We were moving for Bryan’s job again, not mine. I had done everything right – good resume, the right degrees – but the career I had planned for was not falling into place.
God is good and two weeks before I boarded the plane for China, a dear friend of mine, Emily who is a co-founder of 100cameras, a nonprofit organization based out of NYC, asked me to step into a leadership role on a volunteer basis. Since high school, when I quit athletics my senior year and decided to take photography classes instead (Texans, you know that’s a big deal!), I have loved photography. I have always been drawn to the power that art has to share stories and impact viewers. So I love the idea behind 100cameras, that a child can change their community through their own photography.
What I thought would just be something to occupy my time when we moved to China turned into something so much more. Seven years ago when I had just graduated from Baylor, I never would have thought I would be volunteering for a nonprofit organization like 100cameras and living in China. But God’s purpose for me was far greater than I could ever imagine. Even though he has moved me from country to city, from coast to coast, and to the other side of the world, I know that I am not a lost wanderer. His hand is guiding each step and creating meaning out of seemingly disparate events in my life.
In the midst of experiencing a whole new culture, 100cameras has renewed my passion for photography and has shown me how God uses creativity for His glory. I have also seen that the creator uses creativity to inspire his people, to change hearts, and to draw us to Himself. Last fall I took a 100cameras team to Madurai, India where we taught a photojournalism course to the children at the Russ Children’s Home. This encounter with the grittiness of poverty and with the brokenness and pain so many of these children have faced was countered with an incredible sense of joy and hope. Incredibly, the children really captured this juxtaposition in their images, reminding me of a quote by artist Makoto Fujimura:
“Art taps into the glory of the transcendent, and earthly, realities of the new heavens and new earth. Good art (whether created by Christians or non-Christians) should produce a longing for that reality.”
Through 100cameras, I have seen children grow in confidence and in joy through creative expression despite their difficult circumstances. And viewers deeply touched by the children’s photographs and inspired to make a difference. And I have witnessed children’s art bringing tangible change to their communities – over $36,000 has gone back to communities in South Sudan, New York City, Cuba, and India to provide things like clean water, shelter, food, educational resources, vocational training, and medicine.
“Photography is important because it’s an intentional creation.” – Thangapandi, 16 years old, 100cameras Project004 photographer
So now for the challenge. It’s simple really. Look at the world with wonder.
So how does one look at the world with wonder? Here’s my challenge to you::
Open yourself up to viewing life through someone else’s perspective. Go travel, go volunteer in a marginalized community in your city, or even see the perspective of others through the arts or writing. It could be as simple as viewing the portfolios of the 100cameras photographers.
And a special challenge to artists and art-enthusiasts. Go create in His name.
Are you being a steward of your creativity? Are you empowering and equipping artists to inspire positive change?
Artists, I also encourage you to learn more about the International Arts Movement.
For me [Wynne] personally, I am adding to my 100cameras photograph collection in my home. India has been a place that’s on my heart [and a place I’ve never been] and I want to purchase this photograph to hang on my “africa wall” to remind me to pray for India + it’s people. [purchase india prints here]