Trent Gilliss, online editor
Finding a lead image to complement our show delving into Haitian Vodou was a moment of diligent serendipity. I struggled to present images that capture the spirit and tone of a tradition — one that has been caricatured in so many ways for such a long time — and still remain surprising, respectful, and true to its practitioners and its rituals.
Stephanie Keith’s photographs deliver and endure because they do just that — respect the tradition. They also take us into a neighborhood (in the United States), into a life that most of us probably would never encounter. We see how a tradition survives, evolves, and flourishes through immigrant life.
And, here was a photographer who was personally invested in her subjects — at least my intuition said so — and not just documenting them. When I contacted Stephanie Keith for permission to use a few photographs, I asked her why she got started on this project — a Vodou priest at a Buddhist peace rally invited her to learn more about his religion at a “party.”
Several years later, Keith’s words and images endure. And I’m glad to have played a part in spreading her work and sharing a bit of these Haitian-Americans’ lives with those of us who may have been clueless, but remain curious.
Video Snack: One Ethereal Paper Plane
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
Sometimes the magical, the transcendent resonates in the seemingly mundane. I know; I just flew a Spider-Man kite with my three-year-old son for the first time. An image I had taken for granted as being fun came to life in a moment while looking at the awe on his face as he commandeered the strings.
This 8.5” x 11” piece of folded paper floating across the Brooklyn cityscape has that same affect. Take a bite of your lunch and enjoy.
Trent Gilliss, Online Editor
This photo [see here] by Marc Asnin has intrigued me for years now, long before I began this gig at SOF. The sheer density and composition of the image feels almost painterly, and I think that’s why I enjoy it so much — not to mention the wealth of characters. The scene is also a reminder that this boy from NoDak (short hand for North Dakota) must constantly seek out new worlds of thinking and ways of living and discussing.
This crowded room of Lubavitcher men in the heart of Brooklyn are fully engaged and attentive to the words of their leader, the late Rabbi Schneerson. I see them listening to him with the utmost reverence, but as discerning believers who are not passive, but questioning and challenging. What a different world than the prairie Catholic one I grew up in!
I think about this photo every so often when I start resigning myself to another place — particularly today during our staff meeting. I reminded myself to tune in, listen to my colleagues respectfully, engage, and then remind myself of Edward Tufte's (the guru of information design) call to action, “If you don't fight for your content, who will.”
Images of NYC’s Religious Diversity
Colleen Scheck, Producer
The Brooklyn Public Library is currently featuring "Diversity of Devotion" — a photo documentary project depicting 27 religions practiced within the five boroughs of New York City. Stephanie Keith, whose photos we featured in a narrated slideshow for our program "Living Vodou", is one of the 36 contributing photographers.
The project “…was conceived as a response to global religious tensions which intensified in the wake of 9/11. Professional and amateur photographers from around the world volunteered to explore New York City’s richly variegated spiritual life and discover how diversity in belief and practice enriches our own individual experience… Our project aims to remind us all how fortunate we are to live in a city where myriad beliefs coexist in peace and tolerance; we can connect to others and share comfort, sadness, hope and joy as we walk our unique spiritual paths.”
Here’s a few examples of photos from the Brooklyn exhibit:
Chinese Yeshiva Student (photo: Jenny Jozwiak)
Woman Singing Praise (photo: Melanie Einzig)
Imam Bayran at Masjid Taqwa (photo: Omar Mullick)
Spiritual Healing (photo:Tammy Meadows)