PDN Photo of the Day

Comparative Religion, New Orleans-Style

In her series “Spiritual YaYa,” New Orleans photographer Mary Lou Uttermohlen explores the diverse religious practices of the city, documenting ceremonies and celebrations that are mainstream and public or obscure and private, from Mardi Gras parades and Christmas Eve bonfires to Pagan maypole dances and Voodoo rituals. Writes Uttermohlen in a statement about the project, “Some preach that New Orleans is a portal where the veil between the realms is easier to cross. Tourists, evangelicals, energy workers, psychics, healers and ghost hunters arrive like pilgrims in anticipation of a supernatural adventure.”

To photograph at popular events, Uttermohlen sometimes brings lights and a ladder, pushing them in a cart through the crowds and using them to allow for a perspective above the heads of revelers. But gaining access to more hidden parts of the city required slowly building relationships with the people she wanted to photograph. “Photographing this broad topic requires weaving in and out of communities with the manners of a humble guest,” writes Uttermohlen. “Creating this series is a sensitive undertaking requiring patience, grace, diplomacy and respect.” It is, she says, “a gift to be allowed to document sacred moments.”

Related Stories:
Childhood in New Orleans
Creole World: Photography of New Orleans and the Latin Caribbean Sphere
Seeking America’s Faith

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