There are hundreds of photographic images of Buddhas and Christ figures, Virgin Marys and Saints, and real-life human beings including a meditating 70ish woman graced with a beatific face, and a 93 year-old Terezin, Auschwitz and death march survivor.
There is a haunting shot of the “Shoe Memorial” in Budapest where thousands of Jews were shot and drowned in the Danube River by the fascistic Hungarian Arrow Cross militiamen, as well as Hebrew inscribed weathered tombstones in the ancient Prague Jewish cemetery, a secret small synagogue in Terrezin at the end of a driveway with magnificent Hebrew calligraphy calling upon God for redemption from the Nazi horror, and relief details and spires of countless churches in Poland, Prague and Germany.
Taken together these images reflect the diversity of human spiritual expression across time, place and culture, each image illuminated as if by a perpetual flame from within, captured by a gifted and inspired photographer who, a year ago in his 71st year, saw by accident the face of a Buddha that captured his soul as he walked in his neighborhood.
Inspired by a Koryo Buddhist painting entitled “15,000 Buddhas,” Andy Romanoff had an idea, to create an ever-expanding oeuvre of an additional 15,000 photographic images (more or less) of a diversity of religious icons, each representing an unknown artist’s sense of the sacred, and when taken together build a house of spiritual yearning for enlightenment and transcendent oneness.
Andy Romanoff is a Chicago-born Jew and a member of my synagogue community. He views the world as a Jew and with a larger universal vision. He has enjoyed a long career in Hollywood as a camera operator, a cinematographer and an inventor of camera equipment and technology that has enabled photographers to capture images in previously inaccessible environments.
Andy has now embarked upon the artistic and spiritual journey of his life, to record the world’s great religious traditions’ sacred iconography and place them into the context of the whole of humanity’s vision.
Andy calls his photographic enterprise “Sacred Faces.” An exhibit of some of his initial photographs opened in Los Angeles this past Saturday night, February 22, in the Shatto Chapel of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles.
The show includes many large framed photographs and a projected show onto a large screen of more than 140 images flowing into and out of each other against a background of contemplative music. When the cycle of photographs concluded, I found myself wanting more. Andy promises to oblige.
The exhibit continues for another five weeks. The senior minister of The First Congregational Church, R. Scott Colglazier, will deliver a sermon each Sunday morning through Easter Sunday focusing on one photograph, using it as a sacred text and then reflecting on a specific religious or spiritual theme that the image evokes, such as humility, gratitude, peace, suffering, and love.
This is an exhibit one should see. It is also an exhibit that ought to travel to the great cities of the world because it is moving, inspirational and universal, and it compresses the multitude of spiritual images into a single expression of faith and longing.
Avishai Artsy of KCRW (89.9 FM LA) reported on the exhibit last Friday and interviewed Andy. You can hear the story here:
You can see many of Andy’s images here: