This year was the inaugural Stuart Abelson Graduate Research Fellowship. I was lucky enough to be awarded the Fellowship, and will be heading off to Brazil for two weeks to make some new work.First, I should explain what the Stuart Abelson Graduate Research Fellowship is. For the next ten years, second-year graduate students will be eligible for the Fellowship, which consists of up to $6,000 for international travel. The competition is only open to those students that are finishing their second year here at Columbia, and the award is intended to be used by a student so that they can complete a project (or continue one) during the summer between their second and third year. The other stipulation is that the project must be completed in a country other than the US.
At the very beginning of my time here at Columbia, I was invited to speak at the Paraty Em Foco photo festival in Brazil. I was intrigued by the country and have wanted to travel back there to do some work. I contacted some photo people I had met while there, and decided to create a project around the development of the Evangelical Church in Brazil. I have been interested in religious imagery (notably Renaissance era tableaus and alter pieces) and is part of the reason my images take the form they do.
I proposed a project where, for two weeks, I will work with young people in the Brazilian Evangelical community to make alter pieces and tableaus (originally I had wanted to attend an Evangelical summer camp, but proposals have a way of evolving). With these new images, I am interested in trying to tie together the notions of both the purity and violence in classic religious imagery, the colonial history and Europeanization of the Brazilian people, and contemporary aspects of Brazilian life.
I leave in less than a week, and I am still trying to get things in order, but am hopeful that everything will come together. I have gathered everything together that I need, including a new digital 4×5 camera, and am all ready to go. Now the real work starts.