'Action shots, not portraits'


I was reading a story in Vanity Fair online about Pope Francis being "the People's Pontiff."

In the story, the author discusses how he sees the personality of Pope Francis really resonating with generations of people who essentially wrote off the Catholic Church as cold, judgmental and irrelevant.

There was one line in particular that really struck me. It was a simple quote from an Italian Jesuit priest and confidant of Pope Francis. When asked about the Pope's reluctance to do photo shoots, the priest responded: “He’s one for action shots, not portraits.”

As a journalist, I was taught that portraits were merely secondary design elements, never the focus. The main visual element was always an action shot. Why? Action shots tell the story of reality. Portraits show a facade you want the world to see. Portraits aren't reality. Portraits are bull.

I think this is a really important point Pope Francis is trying to help us with. He wants us to see reality. He wants us to live in reality. Reality doesn't have perfect lighting and a canned background. Reality doesn't wait for us to strike a pose. Reality doesn't have re-takes.

We get one shot on this earth. Have you filled your album of life with action shots, or is it all phony smiles and a facade masking who you really are? Are you more into portraits or are you all about the action shot? What's behind your facade?

In reflecting on this, I thought about my own life. I often would go to friends' houses and see tons of family photos all over the place, all portraying a joy and a smile that can only be invoked by a "Say cheese" moment. For years, I wondered why my parents kept those childhood portraits of my brother and me in a box in the basement. Did they not love my brother or me?

After really praying through Pope Francis' quote, I'm glad those portraits are tucked under the stairs getting musty. I realize now that mom and dad always wanted me to be real, and reality isn't perfect. They never wanted me to pretend to be something or someone I wasn't, and in that, I always knew that I was loved unconditionally. I always knew that no matter what I did, no matter the struggles in life, they would be there with arms outstretched.

That was their action shot. What's yours?


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"Act justly.

Love gently.

Walk with God." 

Micah 6:8

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© 2015 by Jeff Burton.