Luther Library

Luther Statue

27 January 2006
  Churches ad hoc

We've all seen dozens of ways in which people (mis-) handle a camera. Over- and underexposure, speed blurs, red eyes, and the like — who among us hasn't shot a few rolls (or memory cards) full of garbage through the years. Even the best photographers produce an awful lot they'd never show anyone (that's why the best photographers develop and process their own work).

Many's the time we've not checked the background carefully enough and ended up with a tree growing out of Aunt Marge's head or produced some other unintended juxtaposition. Yet in the hands of a photographer with a witty spirit and a whimsical eye, the camera can record the artist's intentional juxtapositions.

Churches ad hocOne such master is Herman Krieger, whose captioned photos record the interplay of religious edifaces and sacred symbols with their profane and secular surroundings. The resulting collection, bound and published as Churches ad hoc: A Divine Comedy, began with one photograph. Realizing a good thing, Krieger kept his eyes open, always examining the odd angle, carefully choosing his shots and just as carefully devising his captions.

Ah, the captions. Lots of people can take good pictures. Many others can write clever prose. Krieger manages to to both, and in so doing tickle our fancy while occasionally also leading to deeper pondering. Christians viewing the 80+ captioned photos may be surprised to discover that Herman is a non-practicing Jew, while Jews who've looked through the book will say, "Of course he's Jewish — I could tell right away." This comes from his knowledge of and respect for the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which form the basis of most of his captions.

Who might enjoy this slim volume? Krieger's introduction provides the clues: "Excerpts ... have appeared in ... the Internet edition of The New York Times, a Methodist church calendar, a rock band cassette cover, the religion page of the Stockholm Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, and a Cornell Law School poster for a national conference on The Constitution and Religion: Theory and Practice."

Still unsure? Herman Krieger has that covered. Many of the photos appear online, so you can view them for yourself. If you like them, you can order online (including Amazon) or check your local bookseller. Then you can email Mr. Krieger and tell him what you think.

Churches ad hoc: a divine comedy
Soft cover, 96 pages | 86 duotone photographs
ISBN 0966580966 | $14.95

Recommended for those who like what they've seen so far.

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