Columbus, Ohio, USA

Procession for Our Lady of Guadalupe, Columbus, Ohio, 2016. Used with the permission of The Ohio State University. Produced with support from the American Religious Sounds Project (religioussounds.osu.edu).
Shawn Reilly, a Native American veteran, at the Monroe Independence Day Pow Wow, Sardis, Ohio, 2015.
Ethiopian Orthodox Meskel ceremony, Columbus, Ohio, 2017. Used with the permission of The Ohio State University. Produced with support from the American Religious Sounds Project (religioussounds.osu.edu).
Truck driver Ben Blackburn at Bible study at a Transport For Christ mobile chapel, Lodi, Ohio, 2013.
Hannah on her high school graduation day, Columbus, Ohio, 2016.
A young boy rings a bell during a Diwali celebration at the Bharatiya Hindu Temple, Powell, Ohio, December 2015.
Wiccan service at Marysville Reformatory for Women, Marysville, Ohio, 2018.
Fr. Krstic with ceremonial bread during a slava for St. Sava at the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, St. Louis, Missouri, 2019.
ISKCON devotee Maithila das making an offering to the holy Tulsi plant at the ISKCON St. Louis temple, St. Louis, Missouri, 2019.
Funeral for Mickey Koss at St. Gregory's Abbey, Three Rivers, Michigan, 2020.
Eid festival at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, Dublin, Ohio, 2015.
Wiccan veterans at Pagan Pride Day, Louisville, Kentucky, 2015.
A Christian street evangelist with a shofar, a traditional Jewish ram's horn, at the Republican National Convention, Cleveland, Ohio, 2016.
Travel ban protest, Columbus, Ohio, 2017. Used with the permission of The Ohio State University. Produced with support from the American Religious Sounds Project (religioussounds.osu.edu).
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence march in the Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival and Parade, Columbus, Ohio, 2016.
Born again Christian Jeff and Pam Mullen at the breakfast bar of the Drury Inn and Suites, St. Louis, Missouri, 2019.
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Easter preparations at St. Stevan Dechani Serbian Orthodox Church, Columbus, OH, 2016.
Mennonite wedding reception, Warren, Ohio, 2014.
Bible study with congregation members from the Korean United Methodist Church in Athens, Ohio, 2013.
Ekram, originally from Somalia, on her wedding day, Columbus, Ohio, 2017.
Holi festivities at the Bharatiya Hindu Temple, Powell, Ohio, 2015.

Belief, Unbound

In 2019, I was commissioned by Saint Louis University’s Lived Religion in the Digital Age initiative to photograph religion in St. Louis. What follows are text and images from this fellowship, along with several thematically related images made in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic.

Religion, as I once understood it, was something contained: a set of beliefs and practices neatly confined to the walls of institutional buildings and the pages of sacred texts. Part of my understanding was rooted in personal experience: My family used to worship at a church one day per week, and our faith was largely separate, temporally and spatially, from the rest of our lives. But moreover, this is how religion is often pictured.

Photography has a complicated history of creating and reinforcing such visual tropes. However, the act of creating photographs heightens sensory awareness and provides direct contact with the subjects of these narratives. I find that photography challenges me to reevaluate what I think I know, to look beyond what I expect to see. It is no coincidence that shortly after I learned to use a camera, I gravitated toward religion, the very topic about which I had held many superficial assumptions. Through the lens and the experiences and relationships it fosters, I now see religions spill out of the boundaries I once expected to contain them, intersecting readily with urban and natural landscapes, ethnic identity, politics, economics, and other spheres. My photographs illustrate religion as a complicated dance between formal practice and human experience, between the sacred and the everyday. My goal is not to redefine religion or where to find it, but to pose such questions and encourage nuanced ways of seeing and understanding.

I’ve taken the majority of the photos in this collection in the Midwest. Sometimes dismissed as a homogenous flyover zone, this region is somewhat of a microcosm of the United States, awash in different cultures and ideologies that meet and mingle, and sometimes tangle and clash. Far from discrete, the communities I have met are visibly in constant conversation with their surroundings and with each other.

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