Benedictine Monastery

Discussion in 'Seeking Critique' started by ericphelps, Jan 12, 2020.

  1. Interesting response. With this image someone visualizes something that almost might have been, but wasn't, and someone else mentions something that lives and profoundly does exist (Google Christ In Desert).

    Maybe this all has to do with actualizing what one visualizes.
  2. I think it would just be a different picture. This same spot, with a person, could feel like an intentional (not necessarily “obvious”) portrait or like a more spontaneous capture, say, if the person were simply coming down the stairs, etc. I like it as is. It has an almost abstract character and I think the quiet of the subtle textures and lack of high contrast and lack of increased sharpness are key to the soft emotional draw of the shot as is. It doesn’t need a person. It would be changed by a person and could still be just as good, though very different.

    An obvious pose in such a stark and somewhat formal setting as this could work well. Obvious can still be very particular and commanding, when handled well.
    terrykelly likes this.
  3. To add a perhaps rather nit picking comment to what's been said, I think the shot would be improved by moving to the right somewhat. It's because, to me, the corner between the two rear walls coming almost in line with the edge of the front wall, looks a little awkward. Move to the right to avoid this and reveal the whole of the corner, and a lower part of the rear wall.
    ericphelps and samstevens like this.
  4. A couple of years ago I took a similar photograph, climbing the narrow staircase in a lost castle in my country. I found a ghost coming down the stairs and took a picture. Unfortunately it is not him in it. Possibly he would have ruined the snapshot.
    I love your picture, Eric!!
    Ricochetrider and ericphelps like this.
  5. fwiw I wouldn't make any changes. It's an idea worth keeping in mind for future opportunities.

    It would be easy to render the entire image with a soft pencil on watercolor paper...that might be well worthwhile.

    fwiw Cohen embraced his Judaism more fully after he left that Southern CA monastery.

    Benedictine monasteries exist in many places...they're Roman Catholic.

    Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert
  6. The Mount Baldy Zen Center, which Cohen joined in ‘94, likely had a different vibe :) and would have yielded very different pics from the Benedictine monastery. It would also probably be more rare for a Jewish guy like Cohen to join a Benedictine monastery than a Zen one.
  7. The photos I took at Christ in Desert in New Mexico did look similar to the photos I've seen from Zen Mountain Center in Northern California. Adobe, simplicity, guys in robes... :)
  8. There's an iconic or semi-iconic photograph of a church (possibly in New Mexico). Taken by (I think) Ansel Adams. That's what this one reminds me of.
    ericphelps likes this.

  9. Perhaps there's a zen lesson in that.

    Photographers, like everybody else, mostly lose instants."The one that got away, as fishermen talk about"
  10. Actually, the instant isn't really lost. It's there, captured and preserved in the photograph.
    A camera is (in a sense) a time trap. It has the unique ability to temporarily capture and preserve a specific moment in time and space until that moment can be transferred to more permanent storage (print, digital file, negative, etc.). A photograph of Lincoln meeting with his generals, comes to mind. The meeting took place in 1860 something.
    The actual physical moment is long gone. But the photograph of that moment is still around.
  11. Ansel made many photos and few seem to be memorable, like that alleged photo of Lincoln and his generals...that we evidently can't remember.

    There is no such thing as a "physical moment." Memories are inherently transient, which is one of the reasons people can't remember who it was that ,maybe-made some memory they guess they once had, or the purported location of that dubious memory. Probably wasn't Ansel...the Benedictine monastery is 13 miles off the main highway, too far and too rough for his vehicle (13miles of dirt that's impassible even for jeeps after rain makes mud)..

    Cohen, a Jew since birth, continued Zen practice most of his life. Minor White, important photographer (google him), was a student of Zen, Gurdjieff, and Roman Catholicism.
  12. For me, the best photographs tell a story. Moments aren't as fulfilling.

    I have a book of Ansel Adams's Yosemite. While he's not my favorite photographer, I have profound respect for him and what he accomplished and find most of the photos in the book (well over a hundred) memorable.

    Like most things in life, our memories aren't perfect. Nevertheless, memory is a thing. It's real. It often works.
    What's the point in repeating this? I'd seriously like to know. What does it mean to you that "Cohen, a Jew since birth, continued Zen practice most of his life"?
  13. \


    One casual assumption here has been that Cohen was somehow more naturally able to appreciate Zen practice (not a religion) than Benedictine monastic practice.

    That's only a speculation. I'll just mention that I've met monks who fully embraced Benedictine practice, despite (or perhaps especially because) they were raised Buddhist, in Vietnam. Jews as well as Catholics and Buddhists are often avowed atheists (not big news).

    Jews are members of tribes, rarely converts (tho my ex wife converted from Baptist). Most of my social friends have been Jews, some sat za-zen at San Francisco Zen Center. And yes, I've attended Bat Mitzvah and Bar Mitzvah but I lack the patience to sit Zen. I'm officially Episcopal. I have a dozen Navajo friends, some of them Native American Church, but they're on lockdown and don't have reliable email/phones.
  14. If you’re going off what I said, you’re misinterpreting me. I said it would be more rare for a Jew like Cohen to join a Benedictine monastery. I didn’t say a word about his natural ability to appreciate one thing or another. I was talking about practice,

    Would you say some of your best friends are Jewish? It sure sounds like it.

    In any case, this photo has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with Leonard Cohen except for Mike’s free association to a song of his on viewing the photo. That would have been a good place to let the reference rest, as Mike did when he went on to critique the photo instead of Cohen!
  15. That "ABSOLUTELY NOTHING" pronouncement refers to your personal which you're fully entitled. .

    People interested in Benedictine monastery should Google "Rule of Benedict." The rule itself is compelling.

    Christ in Desert monastery brothers were refurbishing the library floor when I last visited. Adobe clay with blood of ox...which explains the dark floor, even if it's not painted.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2020
  16. This may be of interest: A profoundly beautiful place.
  17. No. It refers to the photo.

    It's an objective fact that the photo has nothing to do with Leonard Cohen. That in no way prevents anyone from associating it with Leonard Cohen for a variety of reasons and it doesn't prevent the photo from bringing a Leonard Cohen song to mind for someone looking at it. That's in the imagination of the viewer. And I have no issue with folks using their imaginations in reacting to a photo. I do it as I suspect most of us do. I'm also in favor of recognizing it as such! What I am saying is that bringing Leonard Cohen in has everything to do with an individual's response and association and nothing to do with the photo per se.
  18. I suspect Mike recognized something along these lines when he introduced the Leonard Cohen song with the caveat O.T.
  19. Eric, I've been to your area of the US only twice, and never visited this monastery. North Miami Beach, where I spent most of my time growing up includes what is billed as the "Ancient Spanish Monastery." Ir was originally built in Europe starting in the late 11th century, and the Order living here was the Cistercian. In the 1920s, William Randolph Hearst financed its disassembly piece by piece and rebuilt in NMB. Its Patron Saint was St. Bernard de Clairveau.
  20. Interesting, Michael - thanks. When we have more freedom to travel, we'd like to visit more old missions here in the S.W. There's another great one, Tumacacori, just South of here only some 30 miles. We've been there several times and I've photographed it extensively.

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