Columbus, Ohio, USA

Eid festival at the Noor Islamic Cultural Center, Dublin, Ohio, 2015.
Micah Bales helps carry a replica of the Biblical golden calf past the U.S. Capitol building during the Occupy Church movement, Washington, D.C., 2011.
A prisoner at the Ohio Reformatory for Women participates in the Cone of Power, a practice of raising and directing energy through chants and song, during a pagan prison ministry session, Marysville, Ohio, 2018.
ISKCON devotee Maithila das making an offering to the holy Tulsi plant at the ISKCON St. Louis temple, St. Louis, Missouri, 2019.
Sean Davies, a practitioner of Asatru, summons land spirits during a summer ritual, Grove City, Ohio, 2013.
A young boy rings a bell during a Diwali celebration at the Bharatiya Hindu Temple, Powell, Ohio, December 2015.
Parishioners play the kebero during Sunday liturgy at the Debre Nazareth St. Mary and St. Gabriel Ethiopian Orthodox Church, St. Louis, Missouri, 2019.
Fr. Krstic with ceremonial bread during a slava for St. Sava at the Holy Trinity Serbian Orthodox Church, St. Louis, Missouri, 2019.
Parishioner Asegedew Wole during Divine Liturgy at the St. Gabriel and St. Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Church, St. Louis, Missouri, 2019.
Truck driver Ben Blackburn at Bible study at a Transport For Christ mobile chapel, Lodi, Ohio, 2013.
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.
Born again Christian Jeff and Pam Mullen at the breakfast bar of the Drury Inn and Suites, St. Louis, Missouri, 2019.
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence march in the Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival and Parade, Columbus, Ohio, 2016.
Protester at the Republican National Convention, Cleveland, Ohio, 2016.
Easter preparations at St. Stevan Dechani Serbian Orthodox Church, Columbus, OH, 2016.
Ethiopian Orthodox parishioners at a picnic celebrating their priest's daughter's high school graduation, Maryland Heights, Missouri, 2019.
Wedding reception cookout, Warren, Ohio, 2014.
Community Chaplain Gwyn Stetler leads a blessing of the animals at Lucy Depp Park, Powell, Ohio, 2015. Produced for the American Religious Sounds Project.
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.
Melate's high school graduation picnic, Maryland Heights, Missouri, 2019.
Shawn Reilly, a Native American veteran, at the Monroe Independence Day Pow Wow, Sardis, 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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