Imago Dei Photography Project
"Imago Dei" (rhymes with "Chicago Day"): Latin phrase for "Image of God"
The idea for the Imago Dei photography project has taken shape over the past few years as I've photographed the men and women who attend the weekly community worship and breakfast at St. Mary's Episcopal Cathedral in downtown Memphis. Many attendees are housing-insecure and struggle with huge challenges, but they still manage to live lives of kindness, loyalty, generosity, grace, and hope. Each week during announcement time in the chapel, I hold up a couple of portraits taken the Wednesday before, and our exchange goes like this: I ask, "What do you see?" and they respond, "The image of God."
A few months ago, I got more curious about their thoughts regarding the "image of God" and began asking the men and women, one-on-one, how they would describe God or where they see God's image in people in everyday life. Angelo answered: "I picture God and me sitting down on the steps somewhere side by side, talking, him sitting like a friend sits beside you." Mark said: "God walks with me like a parent walks with a child. He carries me sometimes." Michael responded: "I saw a special on TV once about a rescue dog that didn't have any front legs, but its owner was hugging it. I think God loves us even when we struggle. He doesn't give up on us. Everybody, no matter what, can be loved by God." A little later, I had the opportunity to present the project concept to the entire assembled group of Wednesday morning worshipers. Attendees were invited to write their thoughts on index cards or record them into my phone after breakfast. The answers they offered gave life to the Imago Dei project. I have done my best to translate their ideas into photographs that honor their contributions and, I believe, enrich our understanding of God. The vast majority of the photographs taken for this project are a direct result of that input, some were inspired by descriptions offered by others over the years, and some spring from my own experiences of God's presence in the world.
I invite you to think about how the image of God, Imago Dei, is evidenced in each of the photos below.
“God protects his children. He holds us in his hands. He’s in so many places at once: He's across the street with a little girl, he's at the hospital with people who are sick, and he’s right here blessing me too. I look up and say thank you. I know he loves me because I’m still here; I’m still in this world.”