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"Light is a metaphor for the Divine. It also means connection with my most inner self ". To quote Jean I feel like this statement in a way conveys more than I could ever say about these beautiful reflective works. In Jean's photographs of old Quaker meeting houses in Massachusetts we find questions and answers. Noble contemplative images of houses of worship that transcend any organized religion but give a thoughtful meditative place for all of us to reflect, relax, take a humbling pause to meet our inner self. These remarkable architectural photographs are indeed restorative. Their natural quiet beauty are iconic in their simplicity and for me are veritably meditative. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Jean when I reviewed her work in the New England Portfolio Review at the Griffin Museum of Photography in the summer of 2016 and I have to say I was quite moved by what I saw in the work and in Jean. I encourage all of us to spend a little time with this series and perhaps find a little bit of that inner self.
- Steven Duede, Fine Art Photographer, Initiative principal
Visit: Jean Schnell Photography
Jean Schnell is an emerging artist in fine art photography. After retiring from a career as a nurse and a health coach, she has been immersing herself in the photography world. Two recent projects focus on buildings: a series on the abandoned Marine Hospital in Martha’s Vineyard and all twenty-three Quaker meetinghouses in Massachusetts.
Her recent work has been exhibited in solo exhibits including the Feldman Family Art Space on Martha’s Vineyard, the Friends Meeting of Cambridge and at Pendle Hill Quaker Retreat Center in Wallingford, PA. Jean’s photographs have also appeared in numerous group shows in the New England region.
Jean’s Quaker meetinghouse photographs have been featured in the Friends Journal. They accompanied her article called “Framing the Light: Quaker Meetinghouses as space and Spirit.”
In 2014 I set out to photograph the twenty-three Quaker meetinghouses in Massachusetts. Many of the meetinghouses are historically important. As a lifelong Quaker, all are personally important to me. I have found many moments of personal strength and clarity in meetinghouses. When I started the project, I wanted to tell the stories of the old buildings. However, the most important story became the serenity of the space itself.
Light has many meanings for me. As a photographer it is a subject in and of itself and is one of the most important aspects I consider when photographing. As a Quaker, Light is a metaphor for the Divine. It also means connection with my most inner self, or the Inner Light as Quakers call it. It gives me a sense of peace and clarity.
I began each day of photographing with silent meditation similar to what I might do on a Sunday morning. It was a quiet, reflective and serene process. I always paid special attention to the light. As I worked through the day, the light would travel around the space illuminating the benches and the walls and floors in subtle and revealing ways. And sometimes there was just a soft diffuse light illuminating the space.
Though these Quaker meetinghouses may seem empty, I see them as full of both light and Light. As I made these photographs, I reflected upon my own spirituality and also upon the universal need for sanctuary. Such spaces provide a place to pause and reflect. They are places to find strength, peace, clarity and serenity. They are sanctuaries, and they are needed in this increasingly chaotic world.