The moment before Mary let go.
Easter, the holiday of egg hunts and candy galore. However, the true history of Easter is far from chocolate bunnies and marshmallow peeps. Easter is a horrible act of torture that needed to happen in order for humankind to be saved and while the good news is that because of this torture. Everyday, imperfect people like you and me are able to have eternal life, forever with God should you choose to believe it and that is a decision only YOU can make, no one else.
Now some of you may have different opinion or perhaps you practice a different spiritual walk or perhaps you walk with the universe. We sure could sit here and debate who is wrong or who is right, but it's not my job nor my purpose to change your mind. My purpose is to love you with all of my heart regardless if you mock me, disagree with me or choose a different path for yourself. My purpose is to be more Christlike everyday, not more religious. My purpose is to serve you with my hands and feet and embrace you no matter what and let God handle the rest.
Last year in August I received an email from our worship leader at church stating that the ARTgarage was looking for Christian artists to put together and depict the Easter Story through the stations of the cross. Each artist could use their preferred medium and we each had a list of different versus of scripture to depict. The scripture that I decided to depict was one of the third sentences that Jesus spoke as he hung on the cross John 19: 25-27.
My reason for depicting this particular moment came to me because I could empathize with Mary. I put myself into her shoes for a minute and thought about how I might feel or react to one of my children being tortured all day and watching it. Although I hope to never know exactly what that feels like I can only image what expressions she may have worn that day.
My hunt for John & Mary Began...
I am a portrait photographer, so I knew that I wanted to photograph real people with raw emotions. I also felt it was imperative to find models that would have been around the same age as Mary and John. I began my research first with Mary. I found that she was only about 15-16 years of age when she gave birth to Jesus and Jesus was 33 when he died, making Mary just about 50 years old. I also thought it was important for Mary to have darker hair as the given location of where she was born the likely hood of her having blonde or very bright hair was not as likely. I began to scroll through my Facebook friends list over and over looking for someone who fit the vision in my head and I came across a woman who I have seen before and have heard of many times in my church. Her name is Catherine. I sent her a message explaining my project and asked if she would be willing to be my Mary. She replied back that she would be honored.
John. Finding John was a bit more of a challenge for me. Simply because I wanted to have a man that would have been similar to Jesus in age, and I honestly wanted a man that would confuse people on whether or not he was John or if he was Jesus. I looked and looked and was coming to a dead end. Until one morning I woke up and glanced over at my husband and felt the Lord say, "this is John." I went back and forth with if I should ask him because my husband actually HATES having his photo taken but I figured since "it was for Jesus" he couldn't say no. (LOL) And I was correct he agreed.
The day of the shoot...
I wanted to make sure that John and Mary stood out from the background. I asked them to both wear black and placed a black lace covering over Catherine. I wanted them to look a bit more "modern" to help the viewers relate more to the subjects in the photo. Many asked me how I got Catherine to cry, and frankly it was very easy. We played one of the most heart touching songs that made her feel most connected to Jesus as I spoke to them about the scene we were depicting. Her song of choice was Come to Jesus by Chris Rice. I asked her to put herself there, in Mary's shoes. Jesus only said seven sentences while He was on the cross and this command was the third one. The way I interpreted this command was Jesus putting His final affairs in order. He knew that His mother not only desperately needed an embrace of comfort, He wanted to ensure that she was taken care of before He proceeded into death. And I truly believe this goes back to the 10 commandments of honoring and respecting our parents. He was honoring and respecting her needs with some of His last breath He was still serving.
Picking out the shot..
I had about 10 images to sift through and as I narrowed them down I was torn between two images specifically. The one you see above and this one.
The reason I decided not to go with this one is because I felt it would have been a more fitting emotion after Jesus actually died. The emotion has a bit of shock and she looks as if she is almost numb. Which is precisely how I would envision her as they began taking Him down from the cross but not particularly how she would have looked right after Jesus commanded her and John to become mother & son. I wanted to capture the moment of grief where one is taking a deep breath as tears are welling in their eyes just before they let out a scream or a whale of desperation. I wanted to capture Mary right before she let go of Jesus and embraced deeply into John. I felt that by Jesus saying this, it was giving her finality that He was indeed going to die, and frankly, as a mom, I would not want to believe it. His command felt like a snap and punch into reality that what He said was going to happen was truly going to happen.
How I chose to edit the image.
I wanted the photo to have some age to it and almost as if it were painted. I also needed to give it more grit as these two had been outside watching someone they love being tortured all day. The original photograph was "too pretty." I desaturated their skin, warmed the tones and increased the contrast and clarity to get the final image.
On March 9th was the artists reception. That was the first time I got to experience the entire exhibit from start to finish. To say it was powerful was an understatement. It was moving and emotional as well as incredible to see other talented artists depict their interpretations. A common theme I felt from the artists was the humble feeling of being unworthy to be depicting such a deep and intimate occasion in Jesus's life as well as being honored to do so. If you have not heard the real story of Easter, I would like to invite you do a version that is easy for not only you but for your kids to understand. Sometimes it's easier to start with the kid versions before digging into the deeper versions. At least that's what helped me. WATCH THE EASTER STORY.
I would like to formally invite you to actually go and see the exhibition in person THIS WEEK! The exhibition will be open until Saturday, March 31st. (the day before Easter).