PJ and I have been doing an enormous amount of work preparing for our exhibition this week at the McConnell Art Center in Columbus, Ohio. We had to select our photos, color correct and proof each one, arrange the printing, framing and wrapping the selection of thirty-eight images. We deliver the images tomorrow with all of the associated labels and the proof of the exhibition catalog.
One of the great joys of doing this was rediscovering images that we had forgotten, images that we liked so much that we included them in the show. Here are five that I particularly enjoyed. The first is Poitier’s Basilique Saint Hilaire. This shot of the strange upper ambulatory shows the complex nature of the rebuilding, additions, and renovations that have taken place over the centuries, as the purity of the original design have long been replaced by a hodgepodge of structures. It is easy to see the complexity in the ground plan.
This photograph taken in the ambulatory shows the unique passageways on the sides of the chancel. From a photographic viewpoint, I love the welter of columns and arches in every direction and how the light varies from region to region.
PJ’s shot of the altar at Notre Dame de Nazareth in Vaison-la-Romaine is a beautifully balanced photograph, but I particularly love the way the chancel crossing looms in the darkness at the top. As happens so often, the lighting fixture is a distraction on the central column but there is nothing that can be done about that. The austere, undecorated stones of the building are shown to great advantage here.
This next shot of the altar at La Souterraine took me totally by surprise. What seems to be a simple, uncomplicated shot features a striking counterfocus in the internal elements. The diagonal line from the bible on the altar to the flowers to the stone font is trisected by the statue in the niche to the right. In addition, the shiny lightning bolt section of the floor in the foreground leads directly to both the font and the statue. This gives an unexpected sense of motion to the otherwise stable composition and is another example of PJ’s surprising eye for detail in composition.
I am always a sucker for symmetry in these churches, and the photograph of the north side aisle at Coutances’ cathedral is a perfect illustration of that. This is just a simple shot but pleases me immeasurably, particularly the lighted central passage terminating at the stained glass window in the dark wall at the end.
This next photograph of Saint Étienne in Blomac was astonishing to me – the composition, the color and the layering of detail give this great emotional resonance. PJ always talks about how these small churches hold the history of the communities. Every detail reaffirms that here – the flowers at the foot of Mary’s statue (supported by a wooden stump), the floor pattern, the rug at the altar, the metal table in the left foreground, and especially the collection of objects on the table next to the pillar. This is a shot that we both missed for years and then rediscovered.
This final shot was taken in 2007, our first year of photographing for Via Lucis. PJ has taken a split composition, usually a bad idea, and made it beautiful. The obvious charm is the vignette with the statue framed on the right side, with the candles in the photograph in perfect position as if lighting the scene. But the secondary framing is astonishing – both the left and right framing pillars are perfectly vertical, as we always try to accomplish with our tilt-shift lenses, but the interior pillars are all leaning. This is one of the graces of these old churches, how they settle over the years into compositions of their own.
Our exhibition in Columbus is open for the rest of the year and we would love for readers who live in the area to come visit and let us know what you think. For those who are interested in the photographs but can’t attend, here is a link to the catalog.