In this final installment of my writing about my work in the exhibition “A 40 Year Chronicle” at the Laurence Miller Gallery in New York, I discuss not only my methodology of shooting my group portraits, but also my current work, the Prayer Portraits themselves, which have been included in the show. The fact that these group portraits are about prayer presents both an impediment and an opportunity for me.
The impediment: these are pictures about what we look like when we pray together in a group. They represent an extremely personal moment for the subjects – one in which I have limited control, since I cannot tell people where and how to stand or sit. Stepping into the sanctity of the prayer space still involves something of a production with lights and crew. But I must respect the wishes of each congregation. This clearly goes along with my discussion in Part 2 of reaching out to be on a common plane with my subjects. I walk a thin line, minimizing interference with the intimate moments of prayer, as a documentarian of the congregation’s event. The learning curve of how to make such images come alive was very arduous; however, I have finally polished my technique, not being invasive, yet still tapping into my subject’s wavelength.
The opportunity: these pictures allow me to be deeply involved on the subjects’ vibrational wave length and to learn the concentration and meaning of prayer in many forms. This is not a subject I would have been ready to take on ten years ago. My own growth as a person has led me to explore the inner workings of prayer through these images and has left me with more questions than answers. I consider that a good thing.
Neal Slavin, A 40 year chronicle
Through 23 December 2016
Laurence Miller Gallery
20 W 57th St #300
New York, NY 10019