Artist's Photographs Depict Psalm 104

PLAINVIEW – Make your passion your ministry.             

Those words hit home with photographer Richard Porter who had just moved back to West Texas in 1993 after working in Georgia for several years. As a member of First Baptist Church in Plainview, he heard Mark Heckles, the singles minister at FBC, encourage people to find a role in ministry.

“One of the big things he emphasized to the singles group was to make your passion your ministry,” Porter said. “For years I wondered how you make lugging camera equipment into the wilderness a ministry.”

Soon after hearing those words, Porter attended a Sunday School class in which Debbie Meriwether focused on Psalm 104, the “creation Psalm.” It was then that Porter hit on the idea to sell his scenic and nature photographs, raising money in order to endow a scholarship at Wayland Baptist University.

Porter’s work will be on display in Wayland’s Abraham Art Gallery in the basement of the Mabee Learning Resources Center from Feb. 20 through March 24. Each photograph will fit the theme of the Psalm 104 and will be available for purchase as a limited edition print. Proceeds from the sale of the photos will benefit the 104th Psalm scholarship fund.

“For years, I tried to figure out how to use my photography as a ministry to glorify God,” Porter said. “I have no artistic ability outside being able to take photos, so that is clearly a gift from Him.”

Porter, a 1987 graduate of Wayland, began talking with WBU development officer Martha Cross about setting up an endowed scholarship.

“I hit on the idea of establishing a scholarship for students, like myself, who don’t have a lot of other financial resources,” Porter said. “Inevitably, you’ll have kids each semester who need a little extra money to get what they need to get into school or buy their books. That’s what I have envisioned this scholarship as doing … taking some of those students and putting them over the top.”

A scholarship fund must reach $25,000 in order to be endowed. At that point, scholarship money is given out from the interest collected on the funds each year. Porter has yet to set up specific eligibility criteria for his scholarship, but he figures he has a little time before the scholarship becomes endowed. Raising $25,000 can seem quite difficult for someone living on a journalist’s salary. However, when breaking the big picture into smaller pieces, Porter said it doesn’t seem quite so hard.

“At first, the prospects of coming up with $25,000 were a bit daunting,” he said. “But I took the approach I take in back packing. You don’t have to start at the top of the mountain.”

Porter will have 50 to 60 photos in his show, and he figures that if he sells the show five times over, he should have enough to reach endowed status.

“That suddenly made it seem a little more doable,” he said.  

Of course, Porter said he wouldn’t even be at this point without the help of Cross and Wayland Professor of Art Dr. Candace Keller who suggested he display his work in an art show.

“I don’t know ‘come here’ from ‘back up’ on art and art shows and things like that, so I called Dr. Keller and asked her how I should price the prints and what people look for when they are looking to buy this kind of stuff,” Porter said. “I started talking with her about the project and she just said, ‘let’s do a show,’ and started looking through her calendar.”

Dr. Keller suggested working the show around Wayland’s homecoming which is scheduled for Feb. 23-25. Porter is hoping the community and alumni will attend the show, if for no other reason than to just enjoy his photographs. He knows raising the $25,000 will take time, but he plans to continue working on it as long as he is able to carry his camera and take pictures. He is also planning on setting up a Web site where prints may be viewed and purchased online.

“This is my chance to do something that will outlive me,” he said. “As long as those photos are selling, there will be money coming into that scholarship fund and as long as there is money coming into that fund, it will be helping kids.”