"I was--we were (as several folks in the office crowded 'round)--completely blown away. By its power and dignity, its implicit compassion and yet unblinking eye. What a wonderful project and I only wish I hadn't been on the road for the last three and a half months because I would have been able to see this amazing project sooner." -- Ken Burns, Emmy Award winning documentary producer/director
FOR BUSINESS AND FOR FAITH
For 18 years, while I was a marketing director at one of the world’s largest corporations, Procter & Gamble, I traveled the world for business and for faith. Motivated by my own search to fill the God-sized hole in my life, I did not know how the journey would unfold. I felt that if I did not develop some type of spiritual faith, I would die. Born and raised a Jew, my challenges with relationships, work, and life forced me (at age 36) to drop to my knees and pray to a God I did not know, a Higher Power not specific to either my own Judaism or any religion and ask for help.
I created a spiritual exercise by interviewing people I met around the world during personal days added on to my business travels. I asked each person about the role of faith in and the spiritual experiences of their lives. As a photographer, I captured a moment with each person, a black-and-white portrait meant to evoke their true spirit, especially as seen through their eyes. What transpired from this practice is that my sense of hopelessness and lack of faith faded. I was lifted and transformed by others’ stories of faith in a Higher Power and a Great Intelligence and an Unconditional Love of the Universe, and I became more whole.
Portraits in Faith documents the role of spiritual experience inside and outside of formal religion. The interviews provided me with expected and unexpected commentary, told in each person’s own words, and brought to life through video and photography. The message of Portraits in Faith is that despite all the negative press on faith in the world today, it is a powerful healer, transformer, and changer of lives. Whatever name one calls God (Jesus, Buddha, Allah, Higher Power, The Divine, Creative Intelligence...), there is a greater force that connects all people. It is good for each person to walk a path of faith that works for them. Agnostics and atheists have ideas that are not-faith, but their journeys are of great importance and have transformed my faith. In fact, my favorite interview in the whole project is with an atheist.
500 PEOPLE FROM 27 COUNTRIES
What also emerged from my interviews and portraits is the world’s most extensive set of testimonies on the subject of faith conducted by one person. I have been blessed to interview and make portraits of 500 people from 27 countries.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Atlanta, Georgia; Cincinnati, Ohio; Rockport, Maine; New York, New York; Fairfield, Connecticut; Alachua, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; Seattle, Washington; Boulder, Colorado; San Francisco, Los Angeles, California CANADA Campbell River, Penticton, Surrey, Vancouver Island, British Columbia; Ottawa, Toronto, Ontario BRAZIL Sao Paulo, Trancoso VENEZUELA Caracas CHINA Shanghai; Guangzhou UNITED KINGDOM London JAPAN Tokyo TURKEY Istanbul POLAND Warsaw REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE Singapore KOREA Seoul UNITED ARAB EMIRATES Dubai, Abu Dhabi OMAN Muscat MEXICO Mexico City ISRAEL Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Tzfat, Haifa FRANCE Savoy EGYPT Cairo INDIA Mumbai AUSTRALIA Melbourne, Victoria; Hermannsburg, Mutitjulu, Northern Territory GERMANY Berlin PHILIPPINES Manila NICARAGUA Managua MALAYSIA Johor Bahru, Pekan, Seremban, Kuala Lumpur PANAMA Panama City, Embera Puru ICELAND Hella, Hvalfjörður
SWEDEN Malmö DENMARK Copenhagen
Originally, I thought Portraits in Faith was about giving each person a chance to tell their story of faith. Then a dear friend shared with me a book written by the creator of StoryCorps, Dave Isay, Listening Is an Act of Love. I then realized that Portraits in Faith was not about telling; it was about listening and receiving the spiritual story of another person—especially someone I perceived to be the “Other.” It’s what I now call ‘sacred listening.’
Through the portraits and interviews in this book, I offer a slice of the transformation I experienced through sacred listening. I believe lives transform when individuals realize there is no “Other.” As Thomas Merton so wisely said, “We are already one and we imagine we are not.”
Portraits in Faith is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit foundation committed to creating sacred listening experiences such as workshops and artistic installations, along with ongoing publishing of portraits and interviews to drive this idea that there is no “Other.”
Please share with me your own experiences of sacred listening; of receiving the story of someone you perceive to be “the Other.” I would love to hear about your own spiritual journey, how you’ve developed a faith that is bigger than any single religion, and your realization about “Otherness.”
The Interview Questions
- Tell me about your earliest memory of faith.
- What was the first time in your life you felt like you had to, or chose to, rely upon God (as you understand God)?
- Tell me about a time you doubted your faith, and what happened.
- What are you most grateful for?
- What is your greatest wish?
- Do you have a message?
- What would you like me to tell people about you when they see your portrait?