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.
His 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.
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.