For ten years S. Billie Mandle photographed confessionals throughout the United States. She visited churches in small towns and large cities, creating images that depict the visible – and invisible – traces of people, communities, histories and dogmas. The images speak to the beliefs that define these dark rooms and shape this intimate, yet institutional, ritual. Photographing from the perspective of the penitent, she used a large format camera and available light, creating images that are more metaphorical than typological. As a queer woman raised Catholic, Mandle has long had a complex relationship to the Church; these photographs are part confession, part reconciliation. The distinguished American writer Kirstin Valdez Quade contributes an original piece of fiction to the book written in the voice of a penitent: “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been seven years since my last confession. Eight months, no, nine. One week. I fought with my brother, three times. I punched him in the arm, but only once. Forgive me, Father. I cheated on my wife, Father. In the Radisson in Nashville. But the lady...
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