VR Photography as Metaphor

Virtual photography has been around a while, but is becoming more widely known as new ways emerge of experiencing media. In particular, people expect rich ways of exploring remote locations, and the emergence of touch-sensitive displays makes VR pictures very compelling. In addition to their secular value, they offer an intriguing metaphor for seeing things spiritually.

VR photographs are viewed interactively. They are images that show all fields of view available from a given location. Three hundred sixty degrees around, and one hundred eighty degrees vertically, one is essentially inside a sphere with the ability to look in any direction and often to zoom in for greater detail.

How could this be used to communicate spiritual reality?

Imagine seeing a scene of impending violence, perhaps someone threatening another person with a baseball bat. Looking at the scene, what would be an appropriate response? One choice might be to yell to distract the people, hoping to stop the conflict. Or perhaps even physically intervene, if strong enough. Another option might be to back away slowly while calling for help. And for someone quite frail, perhaps running away might be the best choice.

Now imagine if you could look around, away from the scene described. As you change the view, you see someone standing with a bored look holding a clipboard. Hardly the kind of thing you would expect at a confrontation. Continuing to pan the picture some more, you see some lights on stands, several more people watching the confrontation, and finally, a video camera.

Suddenly the context changes completely as with the realization that this is a movie set. Now what are some reasonable actions?

Perhaps good choices would be to stand still, or applaud at the right point, or perhaps get out of the way of the camera. In any case, the correct set of actions is completely different now that we have the full picture.

So it is with our reality. When we look around with natural eyes, we see only part of reality. All of reality consists of both spiritual and material existence, and in fact, the spiritual reality is more significant. So as we walk through life, we must make sure to have the complete picture if we want to take the right actions.

(I think making and presenting such a VR would help communicate the fact of spiritual reality to people. This is one of the things I’m work towards in my own VR photography.)

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