Showing posts with label Church. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Church. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


"Lisa", Rockaways, NYC. Spring, 2011. Juliana Beasley.

I met Lisa and Sandra four or five years ago out in the Rockaways. They are sisters.

I took these photos one day at the church where their foster father Pastor Gary presides in the Rockaways. I wish I had more time to spend with them, but they were rushing off with their family to lunch after services. 

"Sandra",  Rockaways, NYC. Spring, 2011. Juliana Beasley.

Monday, February 28, 2011

More Photographs and Words from Church on The Rock

"Flip Hairstyle", Rockaway Park, NYC, 2006. Juliana Beasley

After I photographed each member of the congregation who passed through are make-shift studio leading to the exit of the church, a young woman with bleach blonde hair approached me me.  I asked her too as I had done with the others, "What is your New Year's resolution?"

Her mother and sisters waited outside. The door was held ajar and I could feel the cold air biting against my cheeks.

"I don't feel very good," she said.

"I took an overdose of my epilepsy medication yesterday. I feel really horrible. I tried to kill myself yesterday, " she said.

"I'm so sorry to hear that. Are you feeling alright?" I asked. "It's good that you came to church today."

The day before she had locked herself in the bathroom until her parents managed to get through the door. They had taken her to the emergency room. It's seemed incredible and almost impossible that she could be standing in front of me after such a trauma to her body and psyche. I couldn't make sense of the story, only that she wanted to die and that she hated herself.

"Laker's Fan", Rockaway Park, NYC, 2006. Juliana Beasley

Her honesty and our position in front of the door as others tried to move around us and exit felt equally awkward.  I didn't know what to say. I knew I didn't have enough time to help her or give her some hope.

"I feel better today though, "she said. "I can't believe I did that. It was so stupid."

"You are going to be alright? " I said. "It's good that you came today. Did you pray for help and guidance?"

"Yes, " she said.

"Met's Fan", Rockaway Park, NYC, 2006. Juliana Beasley

"Girl with Scarf", Rockaway Park, NYC, 2006. Juliana Beasley

"Woman in Red Coat", Rockaway Park, NYC, 2006. Juliana Beasley

Prayer and religion are not a part of my vocabulary, but I knew that I had to connect with her within her belief system and not mine.

I wrote down her name and her phone number. I told her I would call her. She said good-bye. I could do nothing else but give her a strong hug and tell her it would be alright. Or at least, I hoped it would be alright.

"Are you almost ready? " a man standing anxiously with a set of keys looked on as we packed my photo gear into bags.

My assistant and I quickly packed up the remainder of my things. We picked up my belonging,and
walked through the door that was quickly locked behind us.

"Charlie", Rockaway Park, NYC, 2006. Juliana Beasley

Friday, February 25, 2011

Church on The Rock, New Years Day 2006.

"Pastor Gary's Son with His Wife and Son", Rockaways, NYC, 2006. Juliana Beasley

I have never posted these images and have only shown them to a few people. They are part of another project, one of those projects you might write down on a list somewhere, the project you plan to revisit. Sometimes, we wait too long and never return, other times, for whatever reason in the cosmos, the attraction is so strong, you can't stay away. This is how I have been feeling lately about this group of portraits that I shot in no more than twenty minutes.

On New Year's Day 2006, I drove out to the Rockaways to photograph at a small storefront church named appropriately "Church on the Rock".  The church is overseen by Pastor Gary as he is fondly known to the congregation. On weekends, he can be found preaching at the lectern on a humble stage.

When I saw Pastor Gary that very New Year's Day, a very frigid day as I recall, he recounted of his half way house in upstate New York. As far as I know, he told me that he was providing a service to the neighborhood, taking in addicted and alcoholic men and under his wing and under God's direction to find a sober and healthier life.

"Charles", Rockaways, NYC, 2006. Juliana Beasley

When I arrived the service had already begun. I created a make-shift studio against the wall next to the entrance and put my brand new Mamiya 645 on my new tripod. I had shot with the Mamiya possibly once before (and sadly enough not much at since). Tripods, now that was a new concept! In the past, they felt cumbersome, even the sturdy light Gitzo investment I had carted along.

We were crammed in between blue office chairs that were used instead of pews. Pushing them aside, we tried to move as far away from the wall backdrop as we could and even managed to set up a Vivitar on light stand. I felt like I was completely working somewhere, not outside of my skill set, but in a very new way that felt exciting. Thankfully, I had a friend there to help me. We had about 10 minutes to set up and take a test Polaroid. I asked my friend to put the test shot under her shirt to warm it up and speed the processing... I could see through the doorway that many had already gathered their personal belongings, preparing to leave.

"Brother and Sister", NYC, 2006. Juliana Beasley

No, it wasn't perfect but that suited me fine.

As the service ended, the members of the congregation began to slowly move towards our studio. After all, the only way to exit the church was to pass in front of my camera.. The line moved quickly, most obliged me with a portrait, rarely anyone refused. I shot a couple of frames.

The congregation was eclectic. Some came in well-worn clothes but others were dressed for their Sunday best.

One well-groomed couple introduced themselves to me and said they had recently bought a larger renovated home in the neighborhood. They represented the slow trickle of gentrification changing the colorful spirit of the Rockaways, for better or worse. I was surprised to see the middle-aged couple whom clearly had a more comfortable existence than most of the other members. They were cheerful, open-minded and made sure to mingle with others.

"Can I take your New Year's portrait?" I asked the people as they walked by.

And after a couple of shot frames. I asked, "What do you wish for the New Year? Do you have a New Year's resolutions?" I had also brought along my new digital recorder for interviewing.

"Woman with Her Purse", NYC, 2006. Juliana Beasley

Some wished for happiness, others peace, others health. No one had any specific requests. I was disheartened and finally, lost interest in asking.

"Red Head Girl", NYC, 2006. Juliana Beasley

Where was Pastor Gary? He must have slipped out the back door and I never got his portrait.