WHAT’S A REAL ‘MIRACULOUS’ PHOTO AND WHAT’S NOT IN THE ARRAY OF PICTURES WITH ORIGINS THAT ARE UNCLEAR?
Does God manifest through photographs? Pictures? Statues? When does life imitate art, and art imitate life? Can art come to life?
Years ago, we took two photographs of a Blessed Mother statue at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Youngstown, New York, and when they were developed, one showed her as we had seen her (a grayish-white statue and a somewhat gray day) but the second picture showed a face on the statue that seemed alive (particularly the eyes) and a bright blue sky as backdrop. It wasn’t a matter of a different angle or setting. It didn’t seem like the same statue nor the same day. We receive photographs from many who have had the same experience (a statue that seemed to have turned, or smiled, or frowned, or bent ever so slightly, at poignant moments), and back in the 1990s, hundreds upon hundreds at more than a dozen roadside grottos across Ireland claimed something similar: statues of the Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph, Saint Padre Pio, and Therese the Little Flower that were coming to “life” before their very eyes, with motion and even veils that ruffled, that fluttered, in a breeze; at times, many claimed, ethereal forms — apparitions — seemed to come from the lifeless representations. Hallucination? Mass hysteria? The “silly season” (as the press called it)? Many are those who have taken photographs of statues at holy places and watched as the developed pictures showed the statue’s head slightly tilted, or now frowning, or now smiling, perhaps a difference in color or texture (send us yours). We are not as quick to dismiss it. Heaven can do what it wants and can be subtle (never out to convince the skeptics) with its signs. It was an angel or the Lord coming out of a Crucifix that gave Saint Padre Pio the wounds of stigmata. It was a Crucifix that “spoke” to Saint Francis at Assisi.
We bring this up because of the true curiosity and perhaps phenomenon of what might be called the “Jesus at the Jordan” photograph [left] that has circulated around the internet for years (and in private settings for perhaps six decades, including at the home of renowned — and authentic — mystic Maria Esperanza, who obviously thought it was special). The question: how did this photograph, which does have a special quality, originate, and how is it related to a tremendously similar painting by a German artist named Johannes Raphael Wehle (circa. 1990, right)? The first reaction is that it is simply a photograph of the painting — a remarkable, anointed painting, an inspired painting, but a painting. Or is it?
Close-ups show subtle but key differences (especially in the faces). We have some feedback from viewers at the end of this article. [See previous article.] Whether or not in this instance, the supernatural, it seems, can inflect itself onto a camera as a picture is taken (although the precise origin of the photo remains a mystery).