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Rachael Graf uses photos she took during her trip to Honduras to tell stories of heartbreak and hope
In the field of photography, as a camera lens snaps shut, it is accompanied by the idea that a moment in time is frozen in an instant, forever capturing a memory.
Liberty University sophomore Rachael Graf relishes this unique idea in her photography. Two of her photographs, which were featured in Liberty’s Student Activities-hosted Art Expo Nov. 1, are examples of the stories told through art.
While on a mission trip to Honduras during the summer of 2013, Graf received the inspiration and opportunity to take the two photos featured in the expo, which she calls “Amada” and “El Reino de Dios.”
“(When) I went to Honduras, God really changed my life, showing me not only how much he loved me, but how much he loved other people,” Graf said.
Graf took her first photo, “Amada,” which means “beloved” in Spanish, during a prayer walk in the inner city of Honduras.
The photo captures the plight of a young girl in Honduras who constantly has to fight the troubles of living in a poverty-stricken area.
“Sadly, I never actually spoke to her — Amada as I called her,” Graf said. “Her face just captured so much emotion … that so many children struggle with each day in Honduras, where children are being subjected to the harsh realities of life and being forced to grow up too quickly.”
According to Graf, when she first took the photo, she did not pay much attention to the girl. However, in retrospect, she realized that the girl represented more than just an empty gaze.
Graf said she often pondered what Amada was thinking as she stared into the lens of the camera that day.
“I titled the picture ‘Amada’ because I don’t know if she felt loved,” Graf said.
For her second photo, “El Reino de Dios,” which means “the kingdom of God” in Spanish, Graf said the photo captures emotions completely opposite those of “Amada.”
“Amada” speaks to people about the heartbreak in the world, whereas “El Reino de Dios” speaks about hope, according to Graf. “El Reino de Dios” captures the emotion and motivation behind a playful and energetic girl.
“Looking at ‘El Reino de Dios,’ I see so much innocence and joy and mischief and carefulness and delight,” Graf said. “Just looking at that picture, I see what Jesus calls his followers to be — innocent, joyful, full of life, trusting and at peace.”
Graf said she wants the picture to inspire those who look at it to be more “childlike — not childish, completely unhindered (and) delightedly abandoned to (God).”
In her chosen hobby of photography, Graf said God provides the opportunity, and she simply follows the Holy Spirit’s prompting to put her camera to use. Graf said she believes that a lot of her photos would not exist had it not been for her obedience to God’s leading.
“I like to say that God makes the picture, and I just take them,” Graf said. “The pictures are already there, I’m just the one pressing the shutter button.”
According to Graf, every photo she takes tells a story of God’s glory.
“Each of these pictures has feeling,” Graf said. “They have smells. They have different places and different memories. They aren’t just simple images. Instead, they are memories reflecting God’s glory, God’s creativity and God’s heart.”
By entering “Amada” and “El Reino de Dios” in the Art Expo, Graf said she hoped to share stories about some of the joys and heartbreaks of God and stories of God’s glory with the public.
“I never set out to be a photographer, but I feel like it is something that God has given me to glorify him,” Graf said. “I want my photographs to be pleasing to God, opening the eyes of people and helping them understand the gospel by showing them God’s incredible love for them.”
As she continues in photography, Graf said she hopes her photos are more than just ink splashed on glossy paper. She hopes they tell a story and shed light on the savior to whom she gives all the glory.