Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Journey through Creation

In the beginning...

When Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre successfully produced the world’s first photograph in 1839, he proudly proclaimed, “I have seized the light.”

The created succeeded in capturing the Creator’s first creation: light. Before anything else was created, God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

It is therefore apt that a photography exhibition should be themed Creation, and that is exactly what The Photographers’ Gallery has done for its final show of 2006. Photographers Belinda Siew and Gillian Tan have put together a stunning array of pictures depicting the seven days of creation, using shots from a miraculous encounter with cloud transfigurations in the Philippines.

Belinda (left) and Gillian (right) giving a talk on Creation

This series is, to me, not only a testimony to the awesome majesty of God, but also an expression of His creation and a reminder of our position as humans—the crown of God’s creation. It is also an excellent accompaniment to Christmas, for this is the season of preparation for the coming of the Incarnate God, Jesus Christ.

And just as we prepare to receive the King of Kings, Belinda recalls their experience in the Philippines, “You can see it only if you are prepared. No one else can recognise it.” While they were shooting, the other members of the group saw nothing remarkable in the dance of the clouds. Perhaps this is why, when Jesus came, not many recognised Him as the Eternal God: they were simply not prepared.

Creation stands as an important wake up call to a world slowly caving in under its own burdens of industry, urbanisation and material progress. As the stewards of God’s creation, humans are to look after the world, not plunder it, and Gillian reminds us that “We are accountable to God for what we do to this earth.”

We glorify God most when we do what He made us to do, and as Belinda observes, “God is creative, so it follows that we must be creative, for we are made in God’s likeness.” Even the account of Genesis resounds with God’s words, “Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”

Day 5

Truly, the end result of this expression of creativity is a virtually perfect balance between conventional techniques and digital editing, as in the spectacular eight-footer 'Day 5'. And it should also be noted that most of the stunning effects are the result of fiddling about with long exposure and manual rotation of the camera, not mere digital additions. For here also, Gillian warns, “Despite Photoshop, we should not shoot indiscriminately, but use it only to do what cannot otherwise be done with a camera—like layering.”

In each of the eight pieces of Creation (one for pre-creation, seven for the days of creation), I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’s words about an artist in his book The Great Divorce, “Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light.” So here also, the photographs are only a means of expressing the glory of God. The artists consider it an act of giving back to God—an offering of sorts: “Use the talents God has given you, and He will move,” Belinda says.

The verdict? Go and see it! Really, it is impossible to do justice to a photograph with mere words, let alone an entire series of photographs. I know it’s a cliché, but if a picture paints a thousand words, there are some 8,000 between these eight pieces. Nevertheless, the most profound revelation of Creation is probably best expressed in the opening words of St John’s Gospel; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word… was God.”

Before and beyond every word we can use, is the Word from whom and through whom and to whom are all things.

Creation runs until 31st January 2007 at The Photographers’ Gallery on the Muse Floor of the Starhill Gallery in Kuala Lumpur.

For more information, visit or call 03-2274 0030.

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