Why Cross Processing?

Whatever begins to exist has a cause

Humans have never lived in a time where opportunities to create art are so readily available. Most of us have cameras attached to the phones in our pockets, able to take a photo or video at a moment’s notice. Paper, along with writing and drawing instruments, are so common that many households and workplaces have notepads and journals that haven’t been touched by pens or pencils yet. Humans also have never lived in a time where communication is so readily available. We can call, text, send voicemail, write letters, and of course, we can post on thousands of websites and applications with social media components and receive instantaneous replies. Generations that have come before us would be floored by the technological progression we’ve had in such a short amount of time, and amazed at how connected the world has become on a global scale.

Those same generations, however, would be aghast and perplexed at the issues our current generations are now facing. Depression and anxiety is through the roof, especially after the events of COVID-19. Substance abuse is also reaching record highs and is still on the rise. Leadership across the board is failing, with too many examples to pick from in government, churches and religious organizations, education, entertainment, and business. And finally, our art on the whole is nondescript, repetitive, and safe, conforming to culturally approved ideas and making sure all of the appropriate social boxes are checked before publication. After all, nobody wants to be the next one “canceled” or without a job. 

With all of these resources at our fingertips, and with all of these outlets to speak to almost anyone we want to speak with, why is the human condition in such a dire state? Why do people on the whole seem so unfulfilled? If we live in an age where we can express anything we want to anyone we want, why is communication at a standstill? There are many responses and answers to these weighty questions. Some of them would be correct, while most of the responses would be only scratching the surface. None of them, however, would be the “silver bullet” that would end the discussion. Our generation’s jigsaw puzzle has many pieces, and addressing every single one of them would turn this post into one of the longest books ever written - if it was ever completed. Instead, all we have to offer are single pieces that we can test to see if they fit with any of the other pieces on the table. Here at Cross Processing, our piece to offer is this: our society is very good at reacting, but we’ve lost the art and practice of discernment. We feel, but we don’t think about why we’re feeling, yet we still demand that our feelings are acknowledged and recognized. We express, but we don’t process.

Photography is an art form that is very close to my heart, and it’s an art I’ve practiced ever since I was a kid. There’s just something so appealing about the camera itself, which is one of the greatest tools for the truth teller. Everything that is captured by the millions of red, green, and blue pixels on that digital sensor replicates the exact scene and subject the photographer sees. Regardless of whether it’s on the film strip or a file on the camera’s SD card, a picture from a camera is a true recorded moment in time. When I got older, and when computers became more prevalent and accessible, I discovered the art of post-processing, the art of editing images. With the help of Photoshop and other related programs, I taught myself how to edit the photos I and others had taken. In doing so, I learned about many other creative ways to alter or enhance my photography. One of these methods was the digital version of what is known as “cross processing.”

In photography, cross processing (sometimes called “x-pro”) is the procedure of intentionally processing a specific type of film in a chemical solution meant for another type of film. To explain it by using another art form, cross processing is the act of mixing up your painter palette. Photographs that are developed using this method are characterized by high contrast and abnormal colors. When a photographer uses this method to process their film, the results are hardly ever predictable, as there are many factors that determine what the final output of the colors will be. Some of these factors include the make and type of the film, the chemicals used to develop the film, and even the light that was captured and exposed on the film.

While film photography has become a niche art, cross processing examples are still commonly seen today in our digital photos, even though the procedure is always simulated. Instead of using chemicals to develop our RAW or JPEG files, we use what is commonly called “filters,” an automatic conversion of the digital color profile of the photo that is completed by either a single click of a button or a more meticulous, thought-out procedure that requires many digital tools to create. Even though there are stark differences between film and digital photography, the primary element of cross processing remains the same - surprise. Even though you may have a filter that tells you it will give your photos a rosy, hazy look, you don’t know exactly what the photo will look like until you activate that filter. Sometimes it’ll make the picture look unique and enticing. Other times it will make the photo look blotchy or too bright, destroying crucial details of the image. Much like Forrest Gump’s famous box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. Even as the technique of cross processing is random, our minds can take the colors we’re given from the process and make sense of them, seeing if the technique enhances or diminishes the original photo.

While film and digital photography do have many differences, there’s one thing that remains the same - there’s always a lab that processes the photos. Even though the number of “brick and mortar” photo labs that process film has decreased significantly over the last 20 years, the amount of “digital” labs has increased exponentially, especially since the rise of social media websites such as Facebook and Instagram. If you use Instagram, there’s almost a 100% chance you have used a custom filter or its photo editing tools to curate your photo to how you want it to look. It doesn’t matter if they reside in a physical space like Walgreens or inside of your desktop computer like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, labs are always designed, run, and used by people.

This special process is not solely tied to photography. In fact, our own personal “labs” are being used every day as we observe our surroundings. Every time we read a chapter of a book; every time we watch a movie; every time we look at a painting; every time we recite a song lyric; every time we gaze upon God’s creations. We’re constantly processing everything around us, and our respective “labs” are our worldviews we adhere to and believe in. However, by following this metaphor to its conclusion, we quickly run into some questions that demand answers. What are we really seeing? Are we seeing things for what they truly are, our labs precisely tuned to the proper color gamut available to the naked eye? Or are we applying too many filters, distorting something that is already more beautiful than we can ever make it, losing crucial details in the process?

Admittedly, this is especially difficult to think about when it comes to processing art. All art is a window to reality, a reflection of a greater truth that is expressed in a certain creative way. Sometimes we look at art and see greater truths expressed in illuminating beauty, and we rightfully praise the artist for showing us what we couldn’t see before. But being as we’re imperfect and fallen human beings, sometimes the truth behind a piece of art isn’t necessarily what the artist wanted to express. For example, sometimes art is created to sell false ideologies, like the works under the categories of social propaganda or agitprop. We can look at that art and see that the ideas or presented images are not what lines up with what reality tells us is good, beautiful, and worthy of approval. We have seen plenty of examples of these in the films and television shows in our current times, even if we’re not realizing it on our first viewing, as we may be steeped in false ideologies ourselves. 

So what can we do? How can we, as Christians, make sure that not only are we creating art that is a reflection of reality, but that the art itself transcends beyond just ourselves and our own perceptions? How can we be sure that we’re not so blinded by lies that our own creations are reflections of a world that doesn’t or can’t exist? It seems that we would need a lab that calibrates our colors to match not just what is real, but to amplify True Truth in even more brilliant and revealing ways. We need a worldview that historically aligns us with our personal and collective existence. That worldview is Christianity.

There are countless individuals who would debate this point. Plenty of people have worldviews they believe are accurate even though those views don’t align with Christianity. Though all of us have worldviews, sometimes we’re not conscious of the fact that we have them, even though our views may be crude and unprocessed. But the existence of other worldviews is not at the heart of the debate - of course other worldviews exist! What matters is if the worldview is true for everybody in every situation.

In 2009, Chuck Colson was interviewed for Focus on the Family and spoke to the idea that Christianity is an accurate view of reality, stating,

“Christianity is not just a relationship with Jesus. It is a way of seeing all of life and reality.”

God has given all of us the ability to know the truth about the world He created. All truth is God’s truth, regardless of how one acquired the knowledge of said truth. As all art aims to express truth, the way we process art and creativity needs to be done under the shadow of the Cross. This is not only the best way to worship and honor God, but it’s one of the best ways to love our neighbors, who are really God’s creations. There’s an uncountable number of human thoughts developed from false religions and secular philosophies that need to be “taken captive to Christ” because they’re holding our neighbors in bondage. These thoughts are expressed both explicitly and implicitly in artistic creations, and if we’re to follow the greatest commandments given by Jesus Himself, we need to be able to think wisely about the art we absorb.

“And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

- 2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (NASB)

This is why Cross Processing exists: Christians equipping their fellow believers with thoughtful writings and conversations about art, with the purpose of bringing both honor and glory to God and the light of the Gospel to those whose labs are not calibrated to reality. We hope you continue to join us on this journey, and we pray that the Christians who write and present their ideas through our platform edify you, bringing yourself and those you may speak with - believers or unbelievers alike - closer to Christ.