Erin Riley – Vocation

“My photographic roots lie in the documentary tradition. And in the last few years I have become increasingly interested in how the portrait functions as a documentary device. Portraits are intriguing for what they tell us, for how they allow us to stare and to linger. I love the voyeuristic nature of portraits. But even more interesting is what they don’t show us and how they often raise more questions than they answer.

This new body of work, “Vocation”, is a series of portraits of military chaplains in the Canadian Forces. I have asked the padres to allow me to photograph them engaged in the act of prayer. The posture of prayer, the pose – eyes closed, head bowed, hands clasped – is one of contemplation, of turning inward. In an effort to slow down my photographic process, I have chosen to use my old Hasselblad film camera. Reflecting upon the process and my decision to move away from the speedier digital cameras, I have realized there are many parallels between the act of prayer and the act/ritual of photographing – loading film, head bowed as I look through the view finder, looking, searching for light and moments, for answers. Hitting the shutter becomes an act of faith that the image will materialize, resurrect itself in the developing process.

I spent time interviewing each padre and ended the interview by asking them to share a passage from their chosen religious text that they thought best summed up their call to serve both as men and women of faith and as active members of the military. This text will be worked into the project either in book form and as part of the exhibition design.”







more images and other interesting projects on Erin Riley’s website.