Early Sunday morning, I was waiting at the hotel reception for Mr Albert Huber. A renowned photographer from Strasbourg and my ‘partner-in-crime’ so to say for this assignment. While I was to photograph the ‘Sacred in Strasbourg’ he was soon off to Udaipur to capture sacred places, monuments and ceremonies there. Together our photographs form the exhibition “Seeking the Sacred,Viewpoints-Strasbourg-Udaipur” which is part of a joint activity of the City of Strasbourg and the Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation, Udaipur.
Today however he was driving me to the old village of Bischheim. Now a suburb of Strasbourg. There the Pastors of the Lutheran church had consented to my photographing a charming ceremony. About 20 members of the congregation, now in their 60s were celebrating and reaffirming their faith in their religion and church.
Albert arrived and within minutes we had connected. Talking photography like photographers across the World. It helped that he spoke excellent English since my French is non-existent.
About 15 minutes later we were standing outside the beautifully renovated Presbytère, Rue Eglise, Bischhiem
The ceremony, conducted by the Pastor, a young lady of commanding presence, brought together the entire community for I could see the church slowly filling up. The bond she and her colleagues share with the community was evident: Each parish-member was greeted by name and welcomed.
I was an outsider but they welcomed me in their midst. Despite the language barrier, each person I interacted with welcomed me and their pride in the Church and its history was evident.
I took almost 200 photographs in the span of the 90-minute ceremony: The people, the place and the Church’s beautiful details.
Initially I stood at the back, not wanting to distract or disturb the ceremonial rituals.
Then towards the end of the ceremony, the parishioners stepped forward to the altar. The light near the altar was more subdued. They stood in a circle, beautifully backlit. A prominent parishioner went around passing the chalice with holy wine to each one. I was at the back, with the 300mm telephoto lens capturing this moment through a gap. I wanted to focus on the chalice but did not want to miss out on the people on both sides of it.
Later, while sorting the 200-odd photographs on the computer, I wondered why I this frame was a cut above the rest. It was the moment which summed up the ceremony: The interaction between two elderly parishioners, the bond between them for they probably had known each other all their lives. It is with this ritual sip of the Holy wine that they were reaffirming their faith in their religion, their humanity and between themselves. The significance of the ceremony was evident in the look they share over the chalice; the depth of their faith as firm and steady as the grip with which they hold the chalice. This was my moment of capturing the ‘sacred’, this feeling of belonging and continuity in a community. Isn’t that what human civilisation and its spiritual well-being is all about?
The Strasbourg Saga till now… : Read here
Want more photographs? Swing by here
Why was I in Strasbourg? Read on here
Experience the church on Googlemaps (Street view)
Are church bells your thing? Listen to the Presbytère, Rue Eglise, Bischhiem bells here
(The Strasbourg saga to be continued)