Picture a Brand New World
The title of this entry is taken from an advertising slogan cooked up by the best-selling mystery writer James Patterson when he was still a creative director for the J. Walter Thompson agency in the early 1980s. You may be forgiven if you have never heard of the slogan or the product it advertised, a Kodak disc camera that never really gained much traction in the marketplace. Yet Patterson was sufficiently pleased with his word-smithing that he mentioned it in a memoir published 40 years later.
As it happens, I think “Picture a Brand New World” is a nifty bit of advertising craftsmanship, even if the product itself never really lived up to the promise of Patterson’s words. As a photographer, I can tell you they succinctly capture what I try to do when I pick up a camera. It may sound pretentious to say so. By this I do not mean to say I try to see the world in a way that has never been seen before. I mean that the world itself is brand new, and I try to see it the way it is.
The author of Ecclesiastes said long ago that there is nothing new under the sun. According to tradition, this Old Testament work was written by King Solomon — reputedly the wisest of Israel’s king — more than 3,000 years ago. The sun has risen more than a million times since Solomon said there was nothing new under it. The things Solomon complained about then still plague us now. So when he says he has seen it all before, there are ample grounds for his lament.
When I say I try to picture a brand new world, I’m referring not so much to what I see as to how I see it. Any geologist can make a good case that the rock on which we’re standing has been around for billions of years. But when I look through the viewfinder of my camera, I am seeing things with new eyes, which makes everything new. I don’t often photograph sunrises, because it’s hard not to produce a cliché. But when I’m up with the sun, I don’t care if it has risen a million times since King Solomon. For me, it is still the dawn of creation.
“Behold, I make all things new,” the Lord proclaims in the New Testament’s concluding Book of Revelation. The Greek word kainos, translated as “new” in this passage, does not mean new as opposed to old. Kairos means “new” in a qualitative sense, as an advertiser might use the term, as in ”new and improved.” When God Almighty says he’s making all things new, he’s not conjuring up something out of thin air. He’s restoring it to its original condition. It is the world as God created it.