A Monastery in Black and White

KC’s Star Magazine today featured Gordon Parks’ 1955 photography of the monks of Saint Benedict’s Abbey in nearby Atchison, Kansas. Especially some of the photos that didn’t make the final cut into Life Magazine.

(Parks) was so taken with what he had seen that he later made prints of 32 pictures he had taken and gave them to the monks.

For years Parks’ photos sat in storage in the dark. Though a few people in Kansas City art circles knew of the cache, the monks told few others that they owned photos by the famous Kansas-born photographer, a Renaissance man who wrote music, books and poems and directed films.

Now, more than 50 years later, the monks have brought them out into the light.

Online, you can view this piece, which includes some of the 1955 photos, plus some images taken by staff photographer Tammy Ljungblad (including the one above).

Each day at the abbey begins in silence, the tail end of the Great Silence that starts at 8 every night and ends after breakfast. The monks’ practice of not speaking moved Parks so profoundly that it’s said he added a period of contemplative silence to his own daily life.

Looking at the photos, all black-and-white, “you can tell that he’s grasping the sense of the quiet that we seek,” Brother Dominic Cason says. “That silence is what makes you focus on God.”

Parks had a fascinating and varied career as a photographer, writer, musician, and film director.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Art, spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A Monastery in Black and White

  1. MCNS says:

    Remarkable photos!

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  3. Pingback: poems of gordon parks

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