Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On earth as it is in heaven





On Wednesday evenings I take my daughter to Communicant's class, which is the Presbyterian equivalent of catechism. The teacher is walking her and her classmates through the articles of the Westminster Confession. At least that's what I suppose they must be doing. After the first few sessions, I'd quite "religiously" grill my daughter about what they were teaching her. Then I'd thoroughly explain to her (in what turned out to be exruciating detail) all the alternative ways of thinking about what they taught her. For example, I noted that not all people reject the existence of dinosaurs. (That was low. It's a beautiful program, and the teacher is a gem.) Still, after a few sessions I think she began to wonder, with all my alternative explanations to what she was learning in the class, why I permitted her to attend the program at all.

After I drop her off I have an hour to kill. I could attend an adult church function at the same time, but why would I want to spoil a perfectly good hour with nothing to do? So sometimes I find an empty room and read. Other times I go to Starbucks and read. And other times I wander up and down our single downtown road, Broad Street, and take photos and try to avoid getting reported to the police. "That creep is back! Every dang Wednesday he comes back!!"

I took this set of photos in a tiny one-room prayer chapel in the building of our former church. The room was dark, but there is a stain-glass window, an over-size Bible made apparently for a race of future Bible-reading behemoths, and a simple silver cross.

I made all of these images by photographing the back of the shiny metal cross so that it reflected the stain glass window. The scene of the crime:



My challenges were these:

1. Squeezing the camera behind the cross in such a way that neither I nor the camera were captured in the photo.

2. Capturing an image of something representational--I never hit the jackpot, which would have been a close-up of Jesus's face--instead of capturing mere abstract colors and images. This meant I had to move the cross off its station and point it in odd positions while holding my camera in the other hand.

3. Avoiding excommunication from the church.

4. Avoiding arrest.

5. Avoiding my daughter from disowning me.

This photo below is my favorite in the bunch. It's the photo that inspired the title for the series.



This photo below nicely captured some ambient light that looks like light streaming from the cross.



And this one shows how I positioned the cross on its edge to produce some interesting effects. I must say I had to assume that crosses are not like the American flag--that once they touch the ground you must burn them. I decided not to burn the cross because for one thing it was made of metal, and I didn't want to first burn down the church, and because, second, here in good ol' Georgia (Joe-ja) cross burning evokes unpleasantness I'd like to avoid altogether.

"No, Officer, we're not exactly sure what he's doin'. It's either blaspheming God or committing a hate crime. Probly both. But whatever it is, we do know he's gonna be excommunicated from the church. And arrested. And disowned by his daughter. That we do know."

"We got it from here, sir. Believe me, we got ways of puttin' the fear o' god in 'im. To the pokey he goes."

14 comments:

shinigami-sidhe said...

I love these, and I agree with you about which one is the best!

Andy D. said...

Well first off, this post and these photos are phenomenal. Really, really good, and really informative, and I enjoyed reading it all and love the photos.

Very creative. If not also cretinous and criminal.

The brevity, of yo creativity, is then laid to waste all by yo, criminality, and all on top of yo, cretinousality....

Anyway. The one question I have is actually about the story you tell in the narrative: as I read it I'm hitting an impassible chronologic roadblock. Yo, chronolology, is... oh nevermind. So:

Why did you set everything in your story the present tense, with your daughter's religious class and all the time killing you have to do, if you then cut to images taken in your "former" church?

Is that the photos were taken several years ago and you thought the current narrative connected it "enough" -- or is it that you currently spend your free hour vandalizing your former church?

Serious question! I'm lost. Help me now be found.

Honk.

Mike Bailey said...

It is our former church, and Lydia takes Communicants class there. Now. She knows kids there. What are they going to do, turn her away?

I mean, what a ridiculous notion, that only some people are chosen.

Wait. That's basically the message of the class.

Mike Bailey said...

S-S: thank you!

Andy D: And thank you, too, for your kind comments. The difference is that with S-S, I believe her. With you I'm mostly just suspicious. Hmmm....what's he up to?

Andy D. said...

: )

I understand!! But no I was serious, very very good work, and I really enjoyed reading it the entry as well.

shinigami-sidhe said...

If you trust me so much more than him, how come he gets a poll when I don't?!

justcurious said...

The few, the proud, the pollees.

And Andy (can I call you that?) think about it this way... better a pollee than a parolee.

justcurious said...

And MB, I like these photos quite a lot, and not just in comparison to the creepy photos. They're great examples of your creative eye at work.

Andy D. said...

By the way, the correct poll answer is clearly "E," all of the friggin above.

Although I will say, that was a little harder for me to finally agree to -- purely on a "logic of the all of the above response" basis -- than you might think. Because as I read them, there were small but important logic and/or drafting errors in each of the above responses. For example -- I KNOW it relates to a harbored grudge from 20 years ago, not that I THINK it does...

But on the basis of "the intent of the poll overall," all of the above is the best choice!

Andy D. said...

Also, you know what would have REALLY been a one-of-a-kind image?

All the colors reflected in the cross, as tiny shards of glass and color, on a photo taken as you hurl the cross THROUGH the stained glass window.

I'm frankly surprised you didn't think of that?

I know I know, too hard to line up Jesus' face.... It seems like artistic limitations always must be allowed to triumph over the good ideas from which they are borne...

Maybe try it next week though.

Steven Taylor said...

Great shots. I like the top one especially.

And I would concur that burning crosses is problematic (especially in the deep South).

Andy D. said...

S-S and JC --

In the words of Monty Python imitating Oscar Wilde (if they had been talking about our poll/pollee discussion here...),

"It is better to be polled, than not to be polled."

A.

Steven Taylor said...

It occurs to me that the second one in particular (and some of the others) looks like a sword.

I would say "sword of truth" but that might get you started.

jonbon said...

MB...you know I love dem' shits...err, I mean, shots. yes, that's it. The photos are very jonbon-esque, if you will.

Call me during said 'free hour'.....bastard. yeah, you heard (read?) me correctly. We could make fun of confirmation class, predestination, creationism, or we could simply do the usual: you offer an officious, tyrannical monologue that starts off with well-intended questions, yet ends in how no one cares for ye welfare.

Seriously. Nice pics.