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Physician-turned-photographer depicts ‘the beauty of the Creator’s works’

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (BP)–Ten years ago, Tom Fox made a decision to leave his hard-earned career as a physician and become a fulltime photographer of landscapes and various marvels of God’s creation. Since that time, his goal has been to “exemplify the beauty of the Creator’s works and to encourage all of us who walk in his ways.”

“There is a great sense of purpose and fulfillment photographing the art of God,” Fox told Baptist Press. “Art can transcend the physical and communicate to the soul and spirit of a person, fulfilling a yearning inside all of us to know God.”

After growing up in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Fox became a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps. His service with the Marines, he said, motivated him toward study and he returned to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville to begin pre-med requirements. After graduating from the UT medical school at Memphis, Fox completed two residencies — one in pathology and the other in radiology.

“Throughout my career of studying and the Marine Corps, I always had a real appreciation and love for the outdoors,” he said. “Whenever I had free time, my vacations would be something adventuresome like backpacking into some remote, challenging area. I always took my camera because I wanted to be able to share with people what I had seen.”

In the Marines, a Christian group called the Navigators had witnessed to Fox, and as a result, he accepted Christ when he returned to Tennessee and then began to grow in his walk with the Lord during the time he was studying medicine and developing an intense love for the outdoors.

At the end of Fox’s radiology residency, his mother died, 20 years after his father’s death. “When she died, it was a real awakening in terms of what I wanted to give my life to and where I was going to go in life,” he said. “I examined my real purpose and passion.”

Fox said that as he grew photographically, he would put together slide shows, and as he grew spiritually, it came naturally for him to include God’s Word with a beautiful slide of God’s creation.

After his mother’s death, Fox realized that his slide shows ministered to people. He also realized that it was something that greatly interested him and something God was calling him to do.

“Leaving my career as a medical doctor — with its many benefits — required much prayer and soul searching,” he said. “I came to a point where I realized the potential that art had to communicate to people. A physician has a potential as well, but I saw that art could really speak to the soul and spirit. It was a real awakening experience for me knowing that I was gifted to do something that could uniquely minister to people. That gave me great fulfillment.”

Fox also added that various arenas in the arts can be very liberal, and there’s a real need to have God’s people present in the arts.

“I believe God has given me a unique talent and vision for which I want to honor him and inspire others. God not only gives me the ability to make the photograph, but he also gives me the picture or scene so that I’m totally dependent upon him.”

Fox chooses to use only natural light in his photographs, and none of his images are digitally manipulated. He often backpacks into remote areas and has spent three to five years going back to the same place, working to get the best picture.

“In nature I want to portray the majesty of God in all its dazzling colors and compelling compositions,” he said. “To make an excellent image often requires years of exhausting effort and patience, waiting for just the right light.”

A new stage in Fox’s photographic career is a best-selling book titled “The Wonder of It All,” coauthored with his pastor and friend, Adrian Rogers of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., near Memphis. Fox spent numerous hours with Rogers, carefully choosing the photographs and devotions to illustrate the wonder of God. The book is something Fox calls a visual reference for spiritual reflection. The two expect to release a second book, “The Nature of Hope,” in the fall of 2003.

Fox said Rogers is a man of great integrity who strives for excellence in his walk with the Lord and then wants to be a blessing to others. Rogers instructed and inspired Fox to take what he does and honor God as in Colossians 3:17, “… whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus ….”

Tapping some of the skills he learned from medical school, such as how to study, Fox continues to study photography and said he is still growing in his abilities. “I haven’t arrived at the station yet,” he said.

In photography, as in nearly any profession, three elements make a good photographer: God-given talent, intensive studying and practical experience, Fox said.

“It’s important to emphasize that a photograph is not just a picture. It’s a work of art, something that’s just by God’s grace,” he said.
Selections from “The Wonder of It All” are being featured in Baptist Press during the week of Dec. 9. For additional information on the Web about Fox’s photography, visit www.tomfoxphotography.com. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: TOM FOX.

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  • Erin Curry