The Beauty of Context

As I write this I am scheduled to shoot an assignment for Nightlight International. They are an organization that works with women caught in the sex industry in Bangkok, Thailand.

I visited their offices on Monday to get a feel for their place and see what they are doing. Want they are doing is amazing.

They are providing employment, job skills, care, counseling, love and hope to women who were trapped in the sex industry. They are also reaching out to more women who are still caught in it.

In walking through their buildings the artist in me was disappointed that the space was not beautiful. The walls are white, and plain. The light is boring and totally what you would expect from a older concrete apartment building in the middle of a redlight district in a major city. I was a little bummed.

It was what I expected but not what I hoped for.

At some point during a conversation with my wife over the last couple of days, God kind of tapped me on the shoulder and got my attention. He began to show me that there is aesthetic or artistic beauty and this is present in each one of these women.

He also showed me there is beauty in contrast and context.

The fact that these women are in this building, in the offices and work rooms, doing normal jobs is beautiful. The fact that they receive counseling and their kids receive an education is beautiful. The fact that they are truly loved and invested in and show that they have value is beautiful. The settings that surrounds them may be mundane and unexciting but the contrast with where they could be instead is beautiful.

Within the confines of the plain white walls, and the soft boring florescent light, shines the beauty of context and contrast. A life of abuse, devaluing and degrading, traded in for a life of being valued, invested in, loved on and supported. A hopeless, painful existence traded in for a life of hope and potential.

It is easy to judge a photograph or an organization based on the aesthetic beauty of the photos they share. I am the first to admit my guilt in this area. What I am learning is to look past the simple aesthetic of the images and try to see the deeper beauty of context that these places are sharing.

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