Featuring a gallery of new photographs from Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville NY, made in November 2016, plus three galleries “from the archives”, dating from 2005 to 2015.
The end of 2016 and the first weeks of the new year have been busy with the Great Feasts of the Nativity of Christ and His Glorious Theophany at the Baptism in the Jordan River, and like many of you, I have enjoyed making some personal travels during these holy days.
Now it is a great joy to turn again to the North American Thebaid Project, and I’m very eager to share with you our plans for the coming year and beyond.
I am very pleased with the overall selection of images, and several in particular are early contenders for the North American Thebaid book, scheduled for publication in late 2018.
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After several weeks of travel, and Thanksgiving week, I am getting caught up on editing and posting more images from recent monastery visits.
First up, several photographs from Hermitage of the Holy Cross (ROCOR). My thanks to Fr. Abbott Seraphim and guest master Fr. Hilarion, and the several monks I was able to speak with during my brief stay.
This was a “get acquainted” visit, as a tentative commitment set up back in the Summer suddenly materialized and forced me to shorten my stay at Holy Cross, but I do look forward to return visits during the different seasons.
Please head over to the special Holy Cross Gallery to explore the images, and to learn more about this thriving men’s monastery, which continues to grow and expand.
The second gallery is now posted and available for viewing, featuring a selection of images from the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration (OCA), a womens’ monastery in Ellwood City PA, about an hour north of Pittsburgh. This beautiful haven, which will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding in 2017, is known for its hospitality. Select images below. Full gallery here…
The first gallery of photographs from the North American Thebaid Project is online, featuring some four dozen images taken at St Tikhon’s Monastery in South Canaan PA.
Captions to follow, but you can get nearly a virtual tour of the monastery, and a real inside look at monastic life, including the divine services, veneration of icons and relics of saints, the monks living quarters and dining room (trapeza) and more.
Also featured are links to learn more about St Tikhon’s Monastery, including videos and helpful instructions for visitors.
Proceed to the St Tikhon’s Gallery, and watch for posting soon of my photographs from Holy Transfiguration in Ellwood City PA, as well as upcoming itinerary…
This past year I’ve begun following photographer David duChemin. He is a wonderful photographer and I love his images, his approach. But I have been stunned at how his words about photography sound at times like Orthodox Christian Monastic and Patristic writings.
Remember when every frame was golden and filled with wonder? Remember being so in love with the strange, beautiful alchemy of this craft that we weren’t looking for atta-boys or Facebook likes? When our joy came from the creation, not the feedback? Remember how that joy led to curious, creative play, and the way the hours would pass while we were on our knees with a camera in the grass, or watching images come alive in the darkroom? Remember when the name on our gear didn’t matter because it was just all so mind-blowingly magical and we didn’t care what others thought about us? I do…
Learning to be a photographer is learning to see. It’s about receptivity. Perception. An openness to the world around us. Wonder. Curiosity. And yes, the growing ability to wield these clumsy black boxes to turn the light into an image.
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.
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.
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):