One of the most exciting aspects of photography is watching an image emerge in the developer - the interplay of the black and the white creating what you hope is a delight to the eyes. The best of my photographs have a focal point of light that somehow works to illuminate the rest of the image by helping to bring out the detail in the shadows, and yet always drawing our eyes to the light. The parallel to our life in Christ often strikes me. Christ the light of the world comes and illuminates the darkness, bringing us out of the shadow of sin and death and drawing us to the light - to Himself.
Over the last five years I have been using photography to document my own parish community, Holy Trinity Cathedral in Boston, Massachusetts. I started in a rather odd fashion but one which I feel has given a more authentic record of our community. I did not take any photographs during liturgical services - no baptisms, weddings, ordinations, or other liturgical "events." Photographs of these events are important and I do take them now, but at the beginning I felt that I wanted to portray a community coming together as the body of Christ in other settings. In a very real way the focal point of light for a parish is coming together at the Divine Liturgy - this event transfigures us into the body of Christ. But it does not, or should not stop there; this transfiguring event should be felt throughout our whole life.
I did not set out to capture images of this transfiguration, but in a sense that is what happened. I tried as much as possible to sneak around almost invisibly, encouraging people to go on with what they were doing, and to ignore me and my camera. The children who so easily smile for a camera would tease me and say "oh right, pretend she is not taking our picture!" But people became so accustomed to me and my camera, that they did start to relax and finally forgot that I was taking their picture. As a result, I have a portfolio of a living parish community: Nevine teaching the children how to read for Vespers; John and David deep in conversation; the children lining up with icons for a Bright Monday procession; Stephanie gathering the children around her; Alex's delighted laugh when Paul gives her a box of Christmas treats; Lydia and Irma in an intense discussion; Katya cleaning a candle stand; a group of adults singing together on Bright Monday; Bea and John sitting quietly together; Genia and Father Robert in the distance talking after Vespers.
The parallel to our life in Christ often strikes me.
All of these are very ordinary, almost forgettable moments, but the light is always there, in moments of peace and conflict, boredom and joy, celebration and sadness. All of these moments are an expression of our life in Christ reflecting and flowing from our participation in the Divine Liturgy. I hope that I have captured ". . . the moment in the rose-garden, The moment in the arbour where the rain beat, The moment in the draughty church at smokefall . . ." (T.S. Eliott, Four Quartets).
Many of my photographs have appeared in the pages of this quarterly since its inception, often accompanying an article and perhaps providing a visual image that enhances what a writer is talking about. But I have always felt that it was important to provide a context for where these photographs came from; they were not the occasional photograph taken by a visitor to an Orthodox Church. They were the result of a project that for me could only be undertaken in the context of a particular community where a relationship exists between the photographer and the subject, and thus the images were also an expression of love. In addition, since 1998, I have worked together with Karen Summers, whose photographs also appear in these pages, to produce annual calendars for Holy Trinity using photographs we have both taken, during liturgical services and Baptisms, Weddings, and Ordinations and also during those other important moments of community life. Although I did not anticipate these practical results when I first started to take photographs at Holy Trinity, I am grateful that they have a wide and appreciative audience. If watching the images emerge in the darkroom trays is an exciting aspect of photography, seeing the images play a part in bonding the community with the shared memories of the light in our midst is truly most satisfying.