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“Golden States of Grace: Prayers of the Disinherited,” is an acclaimed traveling exhibition of black & white photography which aims to give image and voice to nearly a dozen virtually invisible communities on California’s religious landscape.
California has long been sanctuary to people of myriad religious faiths – those in the mainstream as well as those existing on the fringes of society. While conventional middle class religion is widely visible, rarely seen are the sacred worlds of marginalized groups: the outcasts, the fallen, those society has labeled as “other” - those for whom religion was arguably first formed, but who now worship as a means of finding refuge or of forging community where they would otherwise have none.
“Golden States of Grace,” created by photographer and writer Rick Nahmias (“The Migrant Project”), documents groups ranging from a transgender gospel choir, to San Quentin inmates who have converted to Zen Buddhism, to a branch of the Mormon Church created by and catering to the Deaf, to a halfway house for recovering Jewish addicts. Each participating community in the project represents a different denomination, different part of the state’s geography, and different ethnic group.
The exhibit, includes fifty six portraits plus text and an audio soundtrack taken from in-depth interviews with congregations and community leaders. From 2003-2006, Nahmias examined the question: “How are spiritual individuals who live outside the mainstream of an increasingly fundamentally faith-based society, finding place, meaning and community in their lives? “ To do this, he spent time documenting those who, because of world events, society’s prejudices, or their own actions, have been all but silenced.
“Rick is extremely skilled at entering communities, winning people’s trust, and capturing the spirit of a place and its people. His photographs share the triumphs, joys, and anguish of his amazingly diverse subjects, and offer us captivating images of overlooked residents of our golden state.” says Lois Ann Lorentzen, Ph.D., Director of The Religion and Immigration Project at the University of San Francisco, which along with The Pew Charitable Trusts and The Kurz Family Foundation supplied seed grants to the project.
With “Golden States of Grace,“ Nahmias wants to provide more than a window to view diverse religions and lifestyles - he hopes to encourage his audience to “see the ‘us’ in ‘them.’” For more information and to view images: www.goldenstatesofgrace.com.