You are here: Home // Exhibitions, Workshops // Photography at the Margins

Photography at the Margins

With documentary photography, the artist becomes our extended set of eyes, capturing images we would not normally be able to see. He or she can take members from the edge of society and place them in the center of our vision. It is these qualities that are the power behind Golden States of Grace: Prayers of the Disinherited, an exhibition of fifty-two photographs by Rick Nehmias currently on display at the Chicago Theological Seminary. With Grace, Nehmias reveals the lives of eleven marginal religious groups in California. Their faith affiliations range widely, from members of a Jewish half-way house and singers in a transgender gospel choir to a branch of deaf Mormons and a group of Latina sex workers devoted to the controversial Santisima Muerte (Holy Death). Despite their differences, each group is tied together by the ways their faith helps them overcome the challenges in their lives

Spread between four floors of the seminary’s beautiful, light-filled building, each photograph captures its subject with dignity and humanity. The photographs are accompanied by text which explains their subjects and the importance of their faith. Despite facing hardships like alcoholism, poverty, transitioning to a new gender, incarceration, disability, HIV, and violence, the subjects speak powerfully about the uplifting role of faith in their lives. Marty, an elderly Vietnam War veteran incarcerated for murder at 26 comments, “Time in prison loses all meaning. It just isn’t important anymore. Buddhist practice goes hand in hand with that loss/nothingness. It is never about escape from prison life for me, but a helpful means of remaining centered and a reminder that noble paths are a personal choice.” The text continues, “[Marty] has used the support and fellowship of this Buddhist group, noting the calming, inner peace and focus it grants him, to overcome alcoholism.”

Staring at the faces of those photographed, and studying their homes, bedrooms, places of worship, and rituals, one starts to understand the importance of religion in these communities and, more importantly, how their lives may have crumbled without it. It is a testament not only to their faith but to Nehmias’ skill as a photographer that his subjects, as fragile as their lives may be, always look back at us with strength and perseverance.

Golden States of Grace is on display at the Chicago Theological Seminary through May 12. For more information and to see images of the photographs featured in the show, click here.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Copyright © 2010 Sixty Inches From Center, All rights reserved.