Atop the Marienkirche Ambo

Berlin Day 2 – Next Stop: Marienkirche on Alexanderplatz

After the river boat excursion on the River Spree, we headed back to our hotel. As we drew near to the hotel, we came upon the Marienkirche, or St. Mary’s Church.  The church’s website states “Presumably, the construction of the church as a parish church of the medieval New Town of Berlin was begun in 1270 . The first certain mention can be found in a letter of indulgence from 1294.”

I imagine that the three different exterior bricks are a testimony to the re-builds that happened during its history due to fire damage and then the upgrades that come about through time in response to stylistic preferences of each subsequent era.

As we approached we were struck by the contrasts between the ancient church and the modern television spire in the background.

The rough, hand-hewn quality of the exterior of the church did not prepare me for the elegance of the interior.  Even with the scaffolding in place – old churches need lots of repairs – I was taken by the beauty and peace that pervaded the space.

The doors from afar.

This close-up of the doors shows the immense height in relation to the human form. A silent reminder to all who enter of who/what is really important?

I love the movement of the light and shadow on the column.

What a challenge it must be to proclaim scripture or sermonize when standing at this ambo.

Atop the Marienkirche Ambo

The life in the faces and energy in their forms is so captivating!

Welcome to the May 2019 calendar pages.  This image was taken in Asheville, North Carolina a few years back when I began exploring a unique intentional community in that area.  One of the properties that the community continues to consider how to rejuvenate includes a farm tract, trailer residences, and a large area where, in years past, folks have dumped old cars, thresher wheels, furniture, motorcycles, concrete mixers and more.  A couple of tradesman had set up shop there too.  In the midst of this polyglot of sights and possibilities was this very old, partially overgrown outhouse, and these whimsically placed chairs in a row on one side.  I immediately imagined the chairs being there for those waiting in line to use the facility, and “Queuing for the Loo” became this image’s title. I was especially pleased to find a font for the calendar page that somehow echoes the feel of the old outhouse and aging chairs with peeling paint.

WayMaking Artist’s 2019 Calendar by JulieV

2018 was the inaugural year for my limited edition calendar featuring photographs I have taken while in a state of mindful awareness, a state of being and creating that I eventually came to refer to as my contemplative photography practice.  More about that practice in paragraph 3 below.

Making the Calendar this year and last year:  As a creative act in and of itself,  selecting the images, assigning each to a specific month in the year and the design of the accompanying calendar page was so satisfying for me that I felt compelled to repeat the process for a 2019 calendar.  In 2018 I accompanied the images with poetic prose and poetry that felt somehow resonant with spiritual elements in the photographs.  In 2019 the images are presented wordlessly in my attempt to discover if they indeed are ‘worth a thousand words.’  Your feedback is welcome.  AND, I have a few more calendars left in the original run of 100 – they begin with February 2019 and end with January 2020.  Email me if you’re interested in purchasing one:  julia.m.volkmann@gmail.com —  $10 per calendar plus $2.50 to ship.  Tell me your birthdate and I’ll personalize it for you.

About my practice: Even before I found a way to label this practice (or should I say “characterize” this practice?), I had been explaining to the unfortunate souls who had to suffer my long philosophical ramblings on the subject that the act of taking the pictures afforded me an opportunity to be still and be totally immersed in the contemplation of the object or scene in situ; the quality of the light, the touch of air on my skin, the sounds of the place and the sense of being both observer and subject in the image, even if I was not seen  in the viewfinder.  My experience of capturing the image was actually an act of paying deep attention, which elicited in me a stillness, a focus, an awareness of the breath that everyday noise and bustle of life could never permit.

During my MFA IA studies at Goddard College in Vermont, my photographic practice was awakened again after lying dormant for some years. When I submitted a series of my photographs as part of my portfolio work for that semester, it became necessary to research this “thing” I was doing so that I could speak of this art practice in relationship to others’ work in the world – how it might be similar, where it differed, etc.  I was gratified to find Stephen Batchelor’s essay “Seeing the Light – Photography as Buddhist Practice” in Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art, edited by Mary Jane Jacob and Jacquelynn Baas (University of California Press, 2004).   I saw how Batchelor and I were aligned in our approach and experience, even though the work we produced was not at all similar.   Having read his essay, I was able to lay claim to the term “contemplative photography” as the way to refer to my practice.

About the cover image:  I took this picture on my way back home from Goddard College summer session in August 2014.  I had stopped at a local motel for the night.  The next morning this motorcycle was in the space next to mine.  I was stopped dead in my tracks by the message and had to dig out my camera to take the picture before I went across the way to get my free coffee and continental breakfast (i.e. dry sweet roll) prior to continuing my drive home.  When I feel most aimless or hopeless or clueless about whatever road I have found myself on  – be it spiritual, metaphysical or literal I try to remind myself of the value of exploring.  The straightest distance between two points is not  A way, or the ONLY  way, or the best way, to get where you’re going. Life happens on the journey.