Religious symbols surround us like wallpaper. In North America, where I live, the dominant motif is Christian. Churches; crosses; Christmas paraphernalia; Easter eggs; shops closed on Sunday; gospel on radio, television, and billboards; place names beginning with “Saint”: these things are familiar to the point of detachment from spirituality.
When I was a boy, this Christian backdrop seemed vaguely menacing – a reminder of my other-ness, and linked somehow with what my parents referred to darkly as “anti-Semitism”. A child of Jewish parents, I grew up in a small city where Jews were exotic. I was the only Jew in my elementary school; there were a handful of us in high school. In that milieu the thought of a person being anything other than Christian was utterly alien; the proposition that my ancestors killed Christ a truism; the absence of a Christmas tree in my house in December preposterous.
These photographs express an outsider’s preoccupation with the pervasive presence of Christian symbols, and how my appreciation of them has evolved. The boy who went to the synagogue every Sabbath with his father grew up to be an atheist. Symbols of the Christian faith no longer seem menacing or exclusionary. Instead they are a fascinating representation of what I can only regard as strange: faith in an omnipotent Divinity. But I also see them pointing to something that both believers and atheists long for: meaning, truth and permanence.