Assignment: The Image of God – Shekinah – 03/20/2016

untitled-17Have you ever thought about if God had a gender? It makes sense to think about it, right? Both male and female were created in the Image of God, and yet we always tend to think of God as “Father,” as opposed to, “Mother.”

My photography class assignment was to address the question, “What does the Image of God look like to you?” From this question, I decided to address two issues: God as a Mother and as a Female, and Nature as a reflection or an emanation of God’s beauty and creativity.

Often times in patriarchal culture, the female voice is often downplayed in favor of the male gaze, and many females are discriminated against or objectified simply because of their gender. There are so many stereotypes surrounding the female: femininity somehow equates weakness, beauty becomes the physical appearance, and the female struggles to stand equal grounds with the male. This should not be, on any occasion; all of mankind was made in the Image of God, both male and female equally. And this is not to say that God inhabits one gender over the other, and neither am I saying that God is both genders at once: He transcends gender, and gender becomes an expression of His diversity and His being. And that is what I wanted to paint with this sequence: the “feminine” qualities of God. And just because God is also feminine, doesn’t mean She’s any less strong or less fierce or less wild. Our God is the same God, perhaps this is just a different perspective of viewing Her. Based upon this, I chose to title this series as, “Shekinah,” as it is a word used to describe God’s presence, meaning literally, “The Dwelling.” It is also a word used by Kabbalistic scholars (it doesn’t appear in the Hebrew Bible, it was created later) to describe the feminine qualities of God, as it is a feminine Hebrew word, which I find interesting to think and ponder upon.

Plato had this idea of the Anima Mundi, or in English, The World Soul, where every single living being, whether it be trees, or rabbits, or humans, is connected through a singular energy (similar to the idea of the Demiurge). Everyone is one through the World Soul. I don’t agree with this concept, but it’s an interesting thought to think of! And perhaps there is some truth within that: humans are a part of nature, whether we like to think on it or not. We are mammals (albeit, mammals created in God’s image), who sleep, eat, excrete waste as the creatures of the dust do. Yet, we despise the lower animals and organisms, as if they are filthy. As if we are any different. In our hubris, we ravage and pillage the Earth of its resources, destroying large traces of nature. My friend, Cindy, is huge on the environment, and one day she was talking about how humans should adopt an attitude of respecting the Earth more as God’s sacred Creation. And I thought, “Wow, that’s pretty spot on.” The nature that surrounds us is sacred and part of the Creation we inhabit, and we are very much connected with it. The land yields the fruit we eat, the flowers we admire, and the trees which we find cool shade to rest under. Yet, we damn ourselves (quite greatly) by destroying this connection in greed. But we need to take a step back from ourselves, from urbanizations, from advertisements, from cities and Instagram, from all that we have made with our hands, and remember the natural cycle we are part of. We may all not be One, but we all share One Creator.

Some other sidenotes/symbolism that wasn’t as prevalent, but I thought was really cool:

-I specifically chose a minority to model after God, because all of humanity is made in the Image of God. Often in America, we view Jesus/God as male and Caucasian. I wanted to offer a different perspective on what the Image of God means in terms of race.
-My professor said this, “There are two things that can take objects out of time: death and photography.” In taking pictures of “God” in the natural realm, God both exists in the natural and out of the natural expanse of the Cosmos and Time. She is both in the natural and the supernatural.

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