“Sacred Rivers” explores the relationship between religious traditions from around the world and American rivers. From the annual casting away of sins by Jews at the Hudson River to the rededication to their faith by Hindus at the Niagara River, the project reveals how ritual connects people to rivers in a way that few have explored.
What I love most about being a photographer is the connection it gives me to my community. The second best thing about being a photographer is the access into someone’s life during incredible moments. I spent the first 12 years of my career working for newspapers. I learned that being invited to photograph people’s joy, intimacy and grief is not a right just because I’m a photographer; it is a gift. I learned how to be patient for each of these gifts and never take them for granted. When I left the Winston-Salem Journal, I began a freelance career and carried on what I learned from the fortunate time I had working as a news photojournalist.
Living on a bluff overlooking a river, I understand the deep connection so many have with rivers. I began a project with Phoebe Zerwick to tell the story of my river community called the Yadkin River Story. “Sacred Rivers” carries on the story of community, whether it’s a Hindu community, Christian, Buddhist, spiritual community that connects river and community through the United States. And yes, I still feel privileged to be invited into those communities, whether I’m standing in the middle of a river with Hindus or photographing people being re-born into their faith as Christians.
I am a journalist, writer and college professor who has long been drawn to rivers. I grew up in Manhattan, an island cut off from by its rivers by highways, overpasses and fences. Even as a child, rivers spoke to me of journeys and history, of quiet moments and of power. Now, I live a short drive from the Yadkin River, a wild place where eagles nest and the current is swift. It is my hope that this project will allow people of all faiths to reconnect with rivers and the rest of the natural world in ways they hadn’t considered and work for their protection.