Bruce Watts searches for the message from God in his photographs of nature. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Finding the spiritual through the lens

  • April 21, 2012

TORONTO - When Bruce Watts bought a camera for a Philippines vacation in 1965, he had no idea that the beauty of God would be waiting in the view finder. Capturing a memory was all he had in mind.

“I thought, ‘Gee, I should have a camera for this,’ and it just sort of went from there,” said Watts.

Recently the amateur photographer’s photos were displayed at a Followers of Jesus eco-spirituality retreat earning him a guest-speaker invitation at the Mustard Seed’s Spiritual Spa.

But recognition is not why Watts snaps the shutter.

“To me it’s part of my spirituality, it brings me closer to God.”

Like most tourists, Watts started out as little more than an amateur-documentary photographer freezing time forever on film.

As his family grew, the subject of his photos shifted from exotic beauty to precious family moments, a task Watts resisted calling a hassle.

“Trying to get group pictures is a real, not hassle but . . . it just takes maybe 15 minutes to get everybody organized,” said Watts.

Now retired with his children out of the nest, the former medical technician finds time to get back to his photography roots.

“What I like photographing most now is nature because you don’t always have to tell it what to do. It’s all up to me how I photograph it.”



- "It was like just like God had painted this picture." -

How Watts photographs nature, or more accurately how he sees it, is not exactly the same as the conventional landscape photographer. He does follow industry standard techniques, such as wide-angle horizon shots, macro lenses when getting up close and personal, and patience with natural lighting which sometimes means waiting 20 minutes for the sun to reposition. It is his intended subject, the message from God, which separates Watts’ photos from the norm.

Among his photos, Watts illustrates man’s indifference in garbage left on the beach, life’s endurance in plant matter growing amongst stones and, less obvious, the cycle of life symbolized by a hippo in the trunk of a dying tree.

“I don’t go looking for it, I’m just looking as I’m walking and oh my holy hell, I just see it,” said Watts, studying more than a dozen photos spread on his kitchen table. “They see a pretty flower and ‘oh that’s nice,’ and just keep on going, but I try to see what that pretty flower is trying to show me. That’s why I call it part of my spirituality, my seeing.”

But there is nothing special about him which he credits for decoding these artistically embedded expressions from the Lord — God’s graffiti.

“Gods creations are there for whoever wants to see them or whoever wants to enjoy them. Some people choose to see them, some people choose to ignore them,” said Watts.

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