The Crucifix Composition (Dennis Aubrey)


Most of our posts are discussions of the architecture or history of churches, and sometimes meditations on their meaning in our lives today. Today’s post is about our photography itself. The previous article on the slightly eccentric composition of PJ’s photo of Saint Lazare in Avallon led me to think about some themes in our Via Lucis compositions. We often use doors to dramatically frame the shots, especially when there is high contrast between the interior and exterior lighting. And on reflection, I’ve noticed that we’ve anchored many interesting shots on the crucifix.

This first shot was a very early effort in our Via Lucis project, where PJ captured an astonishing image of two Christs, the one bearing witness to the suffering of the crucified other. In framing the shot, PJ could easily have moved just a little to the left and revealed the entire image of the fresco, but leaving the painted Jesus partially concealed was a brilliant stroke. This photograph demonstrated to me the artistry that she continues to display every time we go out to the field.

Basilique Notre Dame, Paray-le-Monial (Saône-et-Loire)

Basilique Notre Dame, Paray-le-Monial (Saône-et-Loire)

The second featured shot is in the north side aisle of Saint Austremoine in Issoire. This church is both easy and difficult to shoot at the same time; easy because it is so colorful and filled with wonderful vistas. It is difficult because there is so much competition for the eye that we miss really seeing the church sometimes. The trees are so interesting that we can’t sense the forest. But in this photograph, the tableau with two crucifixes framing a pieta at the end of the blood-red aisle is another startling photographic moment. It has been there every time we go but is almost invisible unless you are reminded to look.

Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy-de-Dôme)  Photo by PJ McKey

Basilique Saint Austremoine, Issoire (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by PJ McKey

The lovely crucifix at Saint Pierre de Beaumont is a conventional shot distinguished by the quality of the soft colored light coming in the window above. In looking at the shot, the eye immediately goes to the crucifix and then drifts up to the window. The way the colors of the light in the window gently blend together completes this photograph for me.

Abbaye Saint Pierre de Beaumont, Beaumont (Puy-de-Dôme)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Abbaye Saint Pierre de Beaumont, Beaumont (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

I don’t know why this photograph of Notre-Dame de Saint-Saturnin moves me so much, but remember that it took quite a bit of time to get it exactly right, and this composition is the only one that works. In contrast to the previous photo at Saint Pierre de Beaumont, the eye goes immediately to the lighted area and then we notice the crucifix, dimly lit by reflected sunlight. And I like the detail where the small arch forms a kind of halo over the crucified figure.

Église Notre-Dame de Saint-Saturnin, Saint-Saturnin (Puy-de-Dôme)  Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Église Notre-Dame de Saint-Saturnin, Saint-Saturnin (Puy-de-Dôme) Photo by Dennis Aubrey

Of course the crucifix is omnipresent in these churches so there are many opportunities to use them in compositions, but these are some of my personal favorites.

2 responses to “The Crucifix Composition (Dennis Aubrey)

  1. The red pillars are stunning, but my favourite photo here is the crucifix in Abbaye Saint Pierre de Beaumont. Christ looks Middle-Eastern, which is not always the case! His golden loincloth caught my eye and then I found the heavenly light in the arch window behind him! Great!

  2. Really great shots here! I bet it’s fun to pull thematic collections like this from your collection. I really like some of the primitive or grotesque crucifixes one finds contemporary to these churches.

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