In 2016 I finally felt brave enough to call my business how I’ve always regarded it in my heart: Inner Life Portraits. Photographic portraits are a beautiful paradox: they depict our surface, our skin, our face, and yet I strive to represent a deeper truth in each person I photograph.
As I reflected on my journey in photographing the Inner Life, I thought back to my first great photographic project, which was documenting the Little Brothers of Saint Francis. The project unfolded in many surprising phases over a decade, and ultimately led to my being with—and photographing—the founder of the community while he was in hospice care. A good friend of the Brothers then encouraged me to photograph the funeral, which was a beautiful challenge that I reflected on when I launched my website.
This winter, this photograph (above) got new life when it was accepted into a photographic group show titled The All Too Human Condition. I’m generally quite slow, even reluctant, to submit my photographs for awards or shows, but as soon as I read the title I thought of this photograph.
The man paying his respects was a longtime Little Brother of Saint Francis, and Brother James (the community’s founder) was his spiritual mentor as well as the leader of the community for most of its history. Initially (in 2005), Brother Didacus felt unsettled by my photographing the community’s intimate and sacred life. However, after the funeral Brother Didacus said that when he happened to hear the shutter clicking during the services it warmed his heart; he knew something sacred, which might have otherwise been overlooked, was being captured.
It is an honor to have this photograph included in the exhibit, which features 51 photographs from 21 different photographers. The collection includes moments mundane, joyous, transcendental, and even violent. It indeed represents the all too human condition (art history and photo nerds will recognize the exhibit as in the spirit of Edward Steichen’s groundbreaking exhibit The Family of Man). My photograph is the very last one, or the very first one, depending on how you walk the space. It is either a soft closing, or stark opening.
Thank you to Colson Gallery for including it. Thank you to Brother James for your incredible life of leadership walking in Christ’s footsteps. Thank you to his, and now my, good friend D who encouraged me to make photographs during the tender time in hospice and the funeral.