From Eye Candy To Soul Food

A project that connects photography and what’s right with the world

For his Celebrate What's Right project, Dewitt Jones posts images with a simple message to share what's right with the world.

It was 25 years ago, when Steve Werner first asked me to write the Basic Jones column for Outdoor Photographer. I resisted. "I'm not a techie photographer, Steve," I said. "I'll run out of tips and tricks after the first six columns!" "Then just write whatever interests you," he responded.

Thus began a journey that changed me both as a photographer and as a person. I did write about what interested me—the nature of beauty, the spiritual aspects of photography, gratitude, joy, love. I wrote about focusing yourself before you focus the camera, about how the experience was always more important than the photograph, about God giving me photography so I could pray with my eyes. Not your normal column on ƒ-stops and shutter speeds.

I had no idea how any of this would be received. At some level, I guess, I didn't care. Once I started, it just came pouring out of me as if it had just been waiting for someone to turn on the spigot.

Luckily, enough of you did enjoy it that Steve kept me around and I kept writing. The more I did, the more my attitude toward photography began to change. When I started as a photographer, getting the image wasn't everything, it was the only thing. Whatever it took. The more my columns began to uncover my real feelings for photography, the more I saw that the image was really just the residue (beautiful residue, but residue nonetheless) of a deep connection with whatever I was photographing. The goal of my photography was getting a good image; the purpose of my photography was connection.

Seeing this, I really started working on the "connection" part of my photography. Spending as much time in contemplation as I did with camera operation. Focusing myself, then the camera. Watching light, color, line and form without immediately trying to capture it. I wanted both from my photographic outings: the goal and the purpose; the image and the connection.

I also began to see my images more and more as celebrations. Not a record, not a capture, not even an art form, but a visual exaltation of the things I see that give me joy.

Many of you have read about my love affair with the iPhone and my commitment to post an iPhone photo each day on my Facebook pages. I've found this an immensely rewarding experience, both to use the iPhone to record my little visual celebrations, the art in my daily life, and the discipline of writing a few words every day about why a given image brings me joy. Both have continued to enhance the connection I have with my subject matter in an even more concentrated way than have my columns.


One day I thought, "What if there was a place where everyone could go to share their daily visual celebrations?" One central location where we could all meet, no matter what our level of photographic skill or writing ability, and pool the art in our lives into one great collective YES. Imagine the power that would have if enough folks joined in. A beacon of visual light giving permission to others to see the best in their world (rather than the worst); a reservoir of visual beauty to remind us all what an astounding world we live in; a reflection of the magnificence that we photographers see and capture every day.

The more my columns began to uncover my real feelings for photography, the more I saw that the image was really just the residue (beautiful residue, but residue nonetheless) of a deep connection with whatever I was photographing. The goal of my photography was getting a good image; the purpose of my photography was connection.

Am I going off the deep end here? I don't think so.

So here's what I did. I set up a Facebook page called Celebrate What's Right with the World (www.facebook.com/celebratewhatsright). I've asked folks to come and post photos of what they celebrate in their lives, together with a few words of why these images brings them joy. As a little added incentive, every month I choose my favorites, repost them again to the site and send their creator a 10x16 autographed print. At the end of a year, if all goes well, I plan to take all the favorites and publish them as an ebook.

Guess what? Folks are showing up and posting! Warms my heart, it really does. With photos and words, everyday folks are turning eye candy into soul food. Expressing gratitude. Celebrating what's right in the world.

So I'm asking straight out. Come join in and add your words and photos. I guarantee it will be fun, and it could be...okay, I'll say it...huge.

Maybe together we can just go out and change the world—one celebration at a time.

Post your Daily Celebrations on www.facebook.com/celebratewhatsright, or visit Dewitt Jones' celebration website at www.celebratewhatsright.com.

Dewitt Jones is one of America’s top professional photographers. Twenty years with National Geographic photographing stories around the globe has earned him the reputation as a world-class photojournalist. As a motion picture director, he had two documentary films nominated for Academy Awards before he was thirty. Dewitt has published nine books including California! and John Muir’s High Sierra. His most recent book, The Nature of Leadership, was created in collaboration with Stephen R. Covey.

1 Comment

    Dewitt, Thanks so much for your column this time! It’s funny, the dog woke me early, and I heard a little bit on the radio about the banquet where the rich, invited guests didn’t show up…then saw your column in my PRINT magazine. Great way to look at what God’s given us–using photography every day as a celebration!

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