Today I'm finishing up my feature of photographer Phillip Spears. Phillip came to faith at the age of 15. He has a BS in Design from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1983. Since then, he's been working as a commercial photographer in Atlanta. He specializes in educational marketing and annual reports. He and his wife, Dr. Dana Spears, have three children, Anna Kate, Maggie, and Benjamin.Make sure you check out his website for some gorgeous images.
LM: Tell me about your "God's Light" series.
PS: I actually stole that term from a guy I used to work with. Photographers are all about light. We are always trying to manufacture or emulate God's light. I wanted to apply this to a particular set of images using light that only happens naturally and atmospherically.
My clouds series on the website is the second incarnation of the "God's Light" series. I want to put together a big series. This will be a much more serious attempt than the first. It'll be my first real foray into fine art photography in years.
I've been shooting thunderstorms for a long time. I love watching a storm, especially when it's over and especially if it's early or late in the day. It's like a symphony and a ballet all at once. The light is changing so fast. Everything is moving.
The clouds series was taken during a storm over about 35 minutes. It was magnificent in beauty and scale. I love being able to watch it happen. God is both infinite and personal, and shooting these storms feels like a personal gift to me. I know the Creator is watching me enjoy it and enjoying me enjoying it.
LM: What has been a highlight of your career?
PS: One highlight was born out of one of the worst times in my life. My wife Dana and I lost our first child, Sarah, when Dana was 4 1/2 months pregnant. I was 30 or 31 years old, and that was my grow-up moment. Even though Sarah was still in utero, we had named her, referred to her as our child, told our Sunday school class about her. When she died, we held her and prayed over her. It was a very difficult time.
Dana's great aunt gave us some money to do a memorial. We didn't know what to do at first. Our church at the time had lots of young children so I did a series of children's portraits--about 40 or 50 shots up close that weren't sophisticated but were very meaningful. I prefer to shoot on location but we did this in a studio we set up at the church. I called it "Children of the Covenant." One Sunday morning, we ran the series as a slide show with a song that the worship minister had written. That night, I did a eulogy for Sarah.
About a year ago, we reproduced the project. The new work is better than the first one. We took some of the same kids we shot earlier and photographed them now as adults. In the slide show we had the younger photos morph into the adult ones. The series hung in the church for four or five months.
I think that first "Children of the Covenant" series was meaningful to the church as a whole, not just to us as a memorial to our child. Producing that series, looking into the eyes of all those little children, being immersed in all that wonderful innocence helped me to heal from the most traumatic thing that has happened in my life.
Though it is not technically the most demanding project I have worked on I think it does what I want all of my work to do. It serves to remind us that we are human, made in the image of God.