This project presents me with a challenge of balancing competing priorities. I want the photos to be beautiful decoration, creative art, representative documents, and religiously faithful. Most important is the balance between fine art and documentary photography. I want this book to serve as a reference for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which is the oldest in the United Sates. Such a reference does not exist. I want to document the status of the Catholic Church in the United States early in the 21st century. I envision a reference that would be valued by churches as well as secular libraries. But, I also need the photographs to be beautiful and artistically creative. Achieving this balance means that I need to makes a few concessions at both ends. The images can be neither overly religious nor completely secular.
For example, notice image #2 below of the bench. I would guess that most non-religious people would see this as a row of park benches. However, member of this parish, and possibly a few other Catholics, would recognize these benches as pew for an outdoor chapel. And, if they look closely, they will see the stones between the pews that mark the Stations of the Cross, a common feature in Catholic churches.
At the other extreme is the photo above, which is a close up of the Eighth Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. Catholics will immediately recognize this iconic feature. However, I created this photograph with artistic elements to appeal to a broad audience. I created a steep angle of view from below, as if a child was looking up. Most adults (taller than 5 ft) would not regularly see from this angle. I also reduced the color saturation and enhanced the sharpness to allow the viewer to attend to the details of wood-carving marks on the statues. I also adjusted the light to emphasize the shadows created on the wall. I find it appealing to notice the difference in textures between the wood and the shadows. These artistic elements would apply to a photograph of any sculpture and are not specific to Catholicism.
A few of the images below represent another balance between art, documentation, and faith. For the interior shots, I applied a treatment of high-dynamic-range (HDR), which is common practice in current real estate photography. This treatment eliminates most of the interior shadows and enhances the colors of all of the elements in the photograph. So, I created beautiful images that capture the architectural qualities, but I also included specific elements of a Catholic church, such as the altar, crucifix, and apse in image #4 below. Image #6 below is especially representative of my own artistic preference for balance and symmetry in showing the aisle leading out to the narthex. This view is well-known by Catholics, and welcomed with anticipation after a particularly uninspiring homily.
I also chose to capture images with people included. Doing so creates an artistic challenge because I can't have the people recognizable without getting a signed photo release form. I had a cute shot of a little girl by the outdoor altar but I chose this one of the curly-haired boy because you can't see his face. The black and white image of the outdoor altar shows the activity of parents delivering their children for morning preschool, but their faces are sufficiently obscured. I also chose this subdued color treatment, as well as black and white for the baptistery, as a way to add visual variation to this set of images. As a group, I don't want them to appear too similar to each other.
So, I hope I have achieved my intended balance of decoration, art, documentation, and faith. And, I would like to give special thanks to Marie, who opened the church for me and turned on the lights.