The Itinerary

The height and breadth of North America takes away one’s breath, when one considers it all. Even more breathtaking is the breadth of places where Orthodox monasticism is taking root.

Below is my proposed itinerary, to give you an idea of the many monasteries planted across the USA and Canada, from Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of Alaska, and from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.

Someone recently asked me if I will be “following the seasons.” Great question, and  I certainly am! I plan to include Alberta, Canada and Alaska in the Summer months, the Southwest and Southeast in the Winter, and so forth.

There are already changes being made — including additions and deletions — and some sections will be broken up into several excursions. But the general idea is here.

I hope also to schedule parish presentations along the way, and am already off to a good start in that regard, as you can see from the Thebaid Calendar in the right side bar. If you are interested in having me give a slide show & presentation on the Thebaid Project at your parish, please contact Orthodox Speakers Bureau, who are kindly handling all my booking arrangements.

I hope you enjoy this look at one of the guiding documents of the Thebaid Project, which has been updated several times since I first began preparing it almost a year ago.

Northeast: PA/NY/Nova Scotia/Ontario:

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1. Monastery of the Transfiguration (OCA), Ellwood City PA; ~ 310 mi, 5 hrs, from Cincinnati

2. Nativity of the Theotokos (GOA), Saxonburg PA; ~ 40 mi, 50 min, from #1

3. St Tikhon of Zadonsk Monastery (OCA), Waymart PA; ~ 300 mi, 5 hrs, from #2

4. New Diveyevo Monastery (ROCOR), Nanuet NY; ~ 110 mi, 2 hrs from #3

5. Holy Myrrhbearers Monastery (OCA), Otego NY; ~ 140 mi, 2.5 hrs, from #4

6. Holy Trinity Monastery (ROCOR), Jordanville NY; ~45 mi, 1 hour from #5

7. New Skete (OCA), Cambridge NY; ~ 95 mi, 2 hrs from #6

8. Hermitage of the Annunciation (OCA), Watford, Nova Scotia, Canada; ~ 660 mi, 13 hrs from #7

9. Hermitage of St Anthony the Great (OCA), Westport, Ontario, Canada; ~ 1020 mi, 16 hours from #8

11. St Kosmas Aitolos Monastery (GOA), Bolton, Ont. CA; ~ 211 mi, 3.5 hrs from #10

TOTAL MILES: ~ 2800 mi. one-way 

Continue reading “The Itinerary”

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Looking Ahead to the Finished Book

A word about the quality of the North American Thebaid book, which we plan to publish in 2018:

One of the earliest and most important decisions I made when forming the North American Thebaid Project was to learn about the printing of fine photographic books, so that I could ensure an excellent finished product.

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That search led me to a world-class printer with over thirty years in the trade, Four Colour Print Group, and its pre-press subsidiary, FCI Digital.

I should mention that Four Colour Print Group and George Dick came personally recommended by journalist Genevieve Lacer, who has done two fine art coffee table books with them, which I have personally inspected and found to be of the highest quality. (They were also the lowest of three book printing quotes I received!)

When I met with George Dick, President & CEO of Four Colour in February 2016, I took with me examples of award-winning coffee table books by photographers I admire and follow, as well as my own 2014 retrospective photography book, Pursuing the Light, and George and I analyzed and critiqued them.

One edition, a little over twenty years old now, by one of America’s finest landscape photographers, showed definite signs of the pages yellowing around the edges, and to George Dick’s trained eye, it was clear the paper choice was the cause, perhaps because this was still at the dawn of printing from recycled materials, and the paper had acid and/or lignin content, which causes it to lose its pure white lustre as it ages.

With that warning example, and many stand-out features of some premium volumes used as benchmarks, we outlined the specifications required to create a finished book of the highest quality and image reproduction, with archival longevity, and identified the following:*

Continue reading “Looking Ahead to the Finished Book”

Preparing for Pilgrimage: St Tikhon’s Monastery, Part 1

With real joy and thanksgiving, but also with not a little fear and trembling, I realized today that I leave for the first leg of the North American Thebaid Pilgrimage in less than a week and a half…

This is a powerful awareness. I feel as if my life may change forever through this venture. I certainly hope it does, that as a pilgrim first, I may grow closer to the Lord, repent more, pray well, and, God willing, make some good photographs for the Thebaid Project.

The first monastery I am visiting is St Tikhon’s, in South Canaan, Pennsylvania, from September 6-8. Below is a look at America’s oldest monastery, featuring an interview done with Fr. Abbot Sergius in 2009.

I ask your prayers and support as I prepare to begin my pilgrimage…

 

Market Study confirms: The Thebaid Project is Unique (Updated)

The North American Thebaid is truly unique in the Orthodox Christian world. Market research reveals very few projects similar to this in scope or purpose, and nothing like it in North America. Most photo books on Orthodox monasticism center on exotic and legendary locales such as Mount Athos in Greece, or St. Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai, or on church art and architecture.

Light in DesertBook-OBrien
‘Light in the Desert’, by Tony O’Brien, University of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe.

Much more than a documentary or photo essay, the images selected for the Thebaid book will resonate with Dostoevsky’s famous dictum, “Beauty will save the world.”

Both inspirational and informational, the Thebaid book will be something to linger over and return to again and again, conveying the unseen mystery and beauty of Orthodox monasticism through visual means, and drawing the viewer to “ask, seek and knock”, and to go deeper into the Orthodox Christian faith.

Because of this podvig of seeking to explore the apophatic, hidden life of the Monastic Way using visual means, I have sought to articulate a ‘Theology of Photography’ (see here and here). It is this emphasis which sets the North American Thebaid Project somewhat apart, and which requires some comparison with other photography books on monasticism.

I am deeply indebted to Archimandrite Gerasim (Eliel) of the OCA Diocese of the South who, in a conversation back in February 2016, urged me to conduct an actual “market study”, to survey and identify photographic books both similar to, as well as different from, my concept for the North American Thebaid. What I discovered is both illuminating, and inspiring.

Continue reading “Market Study confirms: The Thebaid Project is Unique (Updated)”

A Theology of Photography, Part 2 [Updated]

Dawn Through Trees
‘God Playing Hide and Seek’ — © Ralph H. Sidway (Title by J. Howe)

A commenter on the North American Thebaid Facebook Page had this to say concerning my recent blog post, ‘Pursuing the Light’ – A Theology of Photography:

There is no theology of photography. So we work with light? duh. All visual art works with light. So what? Photography is just a tool we use to say what we want to say, like any other artistic tool, be it pencils or pens or paints or clay. Don’t make it something it is not.

This is quite a direct challenge, and on the surface, seems very strong. Here is my response (my emphasis added):

Continue reading “A Theology of Photography, Part 2 [Updated]”

‘Pursuing the Light’ – A Theology of Photography

Dawn Through Trees
‘Dawn Through Trees’, © Ralph H. Sidway

In talking and sharing about the North American Thebaid Project, I feel compelled to try to describe both what it is, and what it is not.

Much of this description revolves around the type of photography I seek to apply to the project.

Often I find it much easier to say “what it is not.”

My “apophatic” description of the North American Thebaid Project leads me to ask if you are familiar with the recent book by Alexei Krindatch, Atlas of American Orthodox Christian Monasteries.

atlas_of_monasteries_grandeHis is a fine guide and a delightful, even inspiring, reference book, with many wonderful photos of monasteries and monastic life; it is at the same time not at all the type of photography or the sort of book I have set out to produce.

My background is more in fine art photography than documentary or even journalistic photography (categories which might best describe Alexei’s work).

Working primarily in black & white — which by its very nature abstracts the subject, shifting it beyond place and time — I’ve seen my gelatin silver prints selected for juried exhibits (and even win some awards) since 1983. For almost twenty years I worked in a range of film formats: 35mm, 120 (medium format), and 4×5 (large format). Then, at the turn of the century/millennium, I began making my first photographs using the digital medium, and had my first museum-grade, fine-art inkjet prints selected for the Water Tower Annual, in Louisville KY.

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After a major digital camera upgrade in 2008, I returned to fine art landscape photography with renewed vigor and vision, and in 2014 published a coffee table book titled Pursuing the Light, a forty-year retrospective of my landscape photographs. The process of preparing that book led me to reflect on just what photography is, from an Orthodox Christian theological and aesthetical viewpoint. I have adapted some of my insights from the Preface to my book, and wish to share them with you.

Continue reading “‘Pursuing the Light’ – A Theology of Photography”

Crowdfunding Campaign Extended

Plus New, Improved Thebaid Video

With many thanks to our growing community of supporters, we’re extending the crowdfunding campaign through September 11.

IMG_0363 (1)As a reminder, supporters earn valuable perks, including signed books, fine-art prints and more, for contributing to the Thebaid Project.

Did you know that we offer discounts for multiple copies if you pre-order the Thebaid Book in either the Founding Subscribers’ Limited Edition in bonded leather, or the First Edition in cloth bound/hardcover? Explore the substantial savings for two or more copies on our crowdfunding page.

We’re especially proud of the museum quality specifications for the finished book:

Continue reading “Crowdfunding Campaign Extended”

The Dormition, Holy Tradition, and St John Maximovitch

For the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God, here is a classic text from our own times, on how the living tradition of the Orthodox Church is passed down. The monastic life plays a central role in this paradosis, this “traditioning” of the Faith.

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Icon of the Dormition of the Mother of God, showing the Apostles being brought by angels to her funeral bier.

In this case, the young convert, Eugene Rose (the future Hieromonk Seraphim of Platina) relates his encounters with a holy elder, Archbishop John of San Francisco & Shanghai, and with a holy monastic eldress, Abbess Ariadna, and how “[their] words… struck him to the heart, and he understood that there was something deeper to the reception and understanding of Orthodoxy than what our own mind and feelings tell us.”

Continue reading “The Dormition, Holy Tradition, and St John Maximovitch”

UPDATED—Fire destroys church at Ascension Monastery Church, Clinton, MI

Updated with photos showing the extent of the damage, plus new info for donations.

UPDATE 2: New GoFundMe Page to help raise money for Holy Ascension Monastery is now up. From the GoFundMe page:

Help to rebuild our church!

We are sad to report that the church of the Holy Ascension Romanian Orthodox Monastery burned to the ground. All the components of the church including expensive icons, vestments were lost. Also lost was our candle making machine which was our only way of support. Fortunately we were able to salvage the holy relics. Any contribution you can make is greatly appreciated, and if anyone has a candle making machine that is not being used that would be a lifesaver for us.
Total loss to the monastery is about $ 1.5 millions.

We thank you for your support and prayers.

UPDATED—Fire destroys church at Ascension Monastery Church, Clinton, MI

Clinton MI, OCA, August 13, 2016:
Ascension-fire
With sadness, the Romanian Orthodox Episcopate of the Orthodox Church in America reported that the church at the Monastery of the Ascension of the Lord here was destroyed by fire around noon on Friday, August 12, 2016.  The cause of the blaze is as yet unknown.His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel of Detroit and the Romanian Episcopate and Priest Vicar Dan Hoarste traveled to the monastery to be with the monastic community immediately upon learning of the blaze.  His Beatitude, Metropolitan Tikhon requested the faithful to keep the monastery brotherhood in their prayers.  During this difficult time, the Episcopate also offers prayers to grant peace and comfort to the monastic community during this difficult test.

Continue reading “UPDATED—Fire destroys church at Ascension Monastery Church, Clinton, MI”

Fire engulfs Holy Ascension Monastery in Clinton MI

I was looking forward to making a pilgrimage to Holy Ascension Monastery as part of the North American Thebaid Project. God willing, the monastery will quickly recover from this devastating loss, and perhaps the Thebaid Project can help spread the word and spur donations…

DSC_1047Please keep His Grace, Bishop Ireneu, Archdeacon Sebastian, Hierodeacon Ioan and the monastery brotherhood in your prayers!

Fire engulfs Holy Ascension Monastery, Clinton, MI

The wooden church at the Monastery of the Holy Ascension was destroyed by fire here on Friday, August 12, 2016.

Continue reading “Fire engulfs Holy Ascension Monastery in Clinton MI”