Religion, as I once understood it, was something contained: a set of beliefs and practices neatly confined to the walls of institutional buildings, the pages of sacred texts, and a specific day of the week. Part of my understanding was rooted in my own experience growing up, but moreover, this is how religion is often pictured.
Photography has a complicated history of creating and reinforcing visual tropes about religion. However, I find that it also challenges me to reevaluate what I think I know, to look beyond what I expect to see. 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 of everyday life. My photographs illustrate religion as a complicated dance between formal practice and human experience, between the sacred and the commonplace. 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.