Light in the Desert.
Photographs from the Monastery of Christ in the Desert.
Photographs by Tony O'Brien. Essay by Christopher Merrill. Foreword by Mary Anne Redding.
Museum Of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe, 2011. 112 pp., 72 duotone illustrations, 10x13".
In 1968 the Trappist monk Thomas Merton visited the Benedictine monastery Christ in the Desert, near Abiquiu, New Mexico, shortly after it was founded. His writings and photographs of his experience brought the secluded monastery to the attention of a wider community of people seeking sanctuary and spiritual inspiration. After being imprisoned in Afghanistan while on assignment for Life magazine in 1989, photojournalist Tony O'Brien sought solace and perspective at the monastery. He returned in 1994 to do a story and in the process, became a practicing member of the community.
During his year-long residency, O'Brien was granted rare access to photograph the monastery and the daily activities and offices that have been kept in a tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. O'Brien's camera became an instrument of contemplation and spiritual healing, his reverent photographs reflecting, as well, the harsh beauty and austerity of the monastic life.
In an accompanying essay, poet Christopher Merrill follows the daily offices of the monastery, weaving thread of history, theology and spirituality.