Catholic

Sarah & Ryan, married

When Ryan contacted me a couple years ago, he mentioned that he had originally seen my documentary work about Catholic hospitals in NH in Dappled Things. Certainly a pleasant surprise! Fast forward to last month, when I photographed he and Sarah marry in a Catholic ceremony at Saint Stanislaus Basilica—but not before beginning the festivities at the Hotel Northampton’s pub for the rehearsal dinner. We returned there after the ceremony for the reception, as well.

Sarah and Ryan are wonderful, loving couple with welcoming friends and family. I was so glad to have ended 2018 with their joyful wedding.

Sophia & Andrew, married

I’ve made photographs for Northeast Catholic College for many years now, so I know many of the students (and the grounds) fairly well. Sophia and Andrew, both alumni, asked me to photograph their wedding ceremony, performed by the college chaplain and accompanied by the school choir. They were married in the campus chapel last month on a chilly spring morning.

Hannah & Jim, married

These two enjoyed a rather perfect summer wedding day. After a traditional Catholic marriage ceremony and Mass at Saint Patrick Church, we returned to Dexter's Inn for the reception and frivolity. The entire grounds were available to guests, so I could wander around freely to create photographic moments in a variety of settings and activities. 

Usually, once the formal reception begins, I remain focused on speeches, reactions, faces, dancing, et al. Imagine my surprise when, after I finished my time for the day, I found a group of guests who couldn't be confined by a tent and decided to enjoy the pool. Brilliant! A visual feast at the end of an already wonderful day.

Megan & Rob, married

Megan and her girls got ready at her soon-to-be-husband Rob's family's centuries-old farmhouse, which offered a tremendous variety of new and unique rooms and backgrounds (a boon for documentary wedding photographers!). She and Rob had a traditional Latin Rite Catholic wedding Mass at Saint John the Evangelist Church with beautiful choral music. (I'm admittedly partial to the latter, having known and sung with the music director for years.)

For the reception, we returned to Rob's family property for a relaxed and informal evening. Family and friends were scattered throughout: from the wide, green lawns to the barn, tucked behind buildings and under ancient trees. Children of all ages wandered the property. Beer flowed freely, cigarette smoke filled the air, and the barbeque portions were generous. Smiles and laughter abounded.

As a photographer, I couldn't ask for much more. Congratulations to the newlyweds.

Tim Roemer, engineer

Parable Magazine assigned me to make a portrait of Tim Roemer, a young engineer who holds multiple degrees from University of New Hampshire. We wanted to create the photographs in the UNH engineering lab, so he and I met there, and he gave me a tour of the facilities, including the machine he built for his graduate degree. (The device tests and measures the rate at which metal stretches over tension—I think.)

Tim was a great host and subject. We were able to go anywhere we wished, thanks to his good relationships with the administrators. A real joy of these assignments is seeing a world hidden from everyday view—and then showing them to my audience. I could have made his portrait anywhere, but by using a location that was his academic home for 6 years, the photograph becomes a small part of the accompanying written narrative, allowing the reader to see a view of an engineering lab. Such an environment is also more visually interesting, of course.

in the state prison

2016 was a Year of Mercy for the Catholic Church, and Holy Doors were established throughout the diocese (at least one in each deanery) for the faithful. One such door was made in New Hampshire's state prison in Concord, upon the request of an inmate while Bishop Libasci was visiting. As it was very likely the only Holy Door in the world located in a prison, the diocesan magazine featured it in an article ("Mercy Behind Bars", Sept/Oct 2016). I was asked to make photographs.

This wasn't my first assignment in the state prison: one of my first jobs for this magazine was a feature on the prison chaplain, who's also a Catholic deacon. That was long ago, and, besides the stresses of photographing a subject, I had to be keenly aware of my surroundings and not wander from my escorts. Even that wasn't sufficient: we had just stepped outside to tour the yard when we were called back over the intercom by the watchtower. So much for that photo op.

While I had some familiarity with the process and environment, this assignment had its own challenges. First, the prison Holy Door was nothing but the door to the chapel with a small sign signifying its status; no other decorations were permitted. So it's a door.

Second, I'd be photographing the weekly Mass held in the chapel. A local priest visits and says Mass there, assisted by the deacon. But, in discussing this assignment with the communications director and the editor, we decided not to show any of the inmates' faces. We could have requested photo releases from them, but with a couple dozen inmates in attendance, that could have quickly become out of hand. Furthermore, my bosses wished to avoid any potential criticism that we were glorifying the inmates. The story was about the Holy Door and the unique opportunity for blessings it brought to the inmates and the prison. We didn't wish to emphasize any individuals there, at least for this article. So not including inmates' faces in the photographs was another limit.

Finally, and I didn't discover this until I was there, but the lighting in the chapel was some of the worst I'd ever seen. Large lamps suspended from the 30'+ ceilings were directed upwards, resulting in dull, flat light. Better yet, the bulbs were old-style fluorescent ones with major color shifts seen from photo to photo (and sometimes even in one frame). The magazine wanted color photos, of course, but I knew the results would be far better in black & white.

Despite all of these, entering this subculture--convicted, imprisoned criminals who are also practicing Catholics--that is far from our daily lives was admittedly surreal. I watched as the inmates prepared for Mass: rearranged the chapel from the previous Protestant service, set up the altar, rehearsed the music, assisted the deacon. I met a few, and while not verbose, they were friendly and pleasant. Most importantly for my working there, they were focused on the Mass and didn't seem to mind my presence. For all of its photographic failings, the space became transformed: for that hour, the reality of being in a prison was forgotten, and the reverence I witnessed there was no different than any of the dozens of churches I've visited over the years. I'd like to think that, unlike these other places, living here, the spiritual can take priority in a peculiar and special way.   

Madeline & Gerin, married

Madeline and Gerin were married on a beautiful summer day at The Abbey Church of Saint Anselm College. Their reception at the Stonebridge Country Club was slightly delayed by a wicked yet brief rainstorm: once it ended, however, the festivities commenced. 

The day was filled was families and friends celebrating this wonderful, genuine couple.

Kathryn & Sam, married

I met Kathryn a few years ago, when I photographed her sister Kristen’s wedding. I was honored when she asked me to photograph hers, too. (All of us happen to be Saint Anselm alumni, which was our initial connection.) So for me, this wedding was a bit of a family reunion!

Kathryn got ready at The Vanderbilt in Newport, RI. The Catholic wedding ceremony was held at Salve Regina University’s Our Lady of Mercy Chapel, where it was officiated by Rev. Jonathan DeFelice, OSB, the former president of Saint Anselm. Family and friends enjoyed the rest of the day at The Kinney Bungalow in Narragansett.

The day was truly a wonderful, relaxed, and joyous one for Kathryn and Sam. I was truly grateful to be a part of it.

Dan Burke

Dan Burke, May 2014.
I met Dan Burke after photographing the College of Saint Mary Magdalen's graduation in May. He gave the commencement speech, and I had the good fortune of dining with him and a few others from the college afterwards. In addition to his work as Executive Director of the National Catholic Register and founder of the Avila Institute, he is an author and speaker on Catholic spirituality.

I asked to make his portrait, and we found a quiet space in the office of the president (who's also a good friend). We spent more time discussing art, aesthetics, and films than photographing, but we fit in a few portraits.

March for Life: Mass II

Washington, DC, 2013.
Washington, DC, 2013.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, a Mass is said at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception the night before the March for Life. The Mass is televised throughout the side and lower chapels, where many have camped for hours just to claim a space.

My photo essay about the March is published on SocialDocumentary.net.

March for Life: Mass I

Washington, DC, 2013
Washington, DC, 2013.

The night before the March for Life, a Mass is said at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Despite the basilica's tremendous size, it fills beyond capacity hours prior to the Mass, as the faithful hope to secure a place in a pew. But many must stay in the aisles and side chapels.

My photo essay about the March is published on SocialDocumentary.net.