MISSION AND MINISTRY | The Jesuits embody the spirit of Loyola Marymount University, yet how many of us really see them?
Chris Yates ’16 wants everyone to see the men behind the clerical collars. So, he and his friend and collaborator, Robert Macaisa ’14, produced a coffee table book that presents remarkable portraits of 22 of Loyola Marymount’s members of the Society of Jesus, in formal and informal poses.
“I think that this project,” said Yates, “means a reflection of my own spiritual journey, reflected in the experiences and stories of the Jesuits included in the book. I like being able to bring awareness to the LMU community and break down misconceptions about priests.”
Yates conceived of the project in his junior year, in a light-bulb moment, as he described it. He had been involved in Campus Ministry and working with the Jesuits there when he began to wonder about them: How many Jesuits are at LMU? Chris only knew a handful from his work and classes. As he thought more about the Jesuits, the project developed as a journey to facilitate his own and others’ personal interactions with the Jesuit priests and brothers.
Yates pitched his idea to Allan Deck, S.J., rector of LMU’s Jesuit Community. Yates, who took up photography in his sophomore year, envisioned a series of portraits of Jesuit priests as a way to show reverence and appreciation. Deck sent Yates away with an assurance that he would consult other members of the community, look further into the idea and meet again. A few days later, Yates photographed Bill Fulco, S.J., to give the project a visual basis. When Deck saw the pictures, he realized the potential and was enthusiastic.
“The Jesuits at LMU, and now throughout the nation, have been stunned by the book’s rare beauty and sensitivity,” said Deck. “That fledgling photographer-artists like Chris and Robert pulled off such a remarkable project in a little over a year is astounding. The Jesuits, needless to say, were pleased and grateful.”
Yates and Macaisa drew up a questionnaire that asked about the Jesuits’ passions and hobbies, and those who opted in, 22 of the 32 Jesuits on campus, were scheduled for two shooting days: one for a formal portrait and one for the informal shots. Yates and Macaisa chose the settings based on the information learned from the survey, emphasizing the personality of each man.
“In the formal shots, we emphasized the eyes,” said Macaisa. “I mean we put the camera right to their faces, and though it’s uncomfortable, we wanted to capture the character that is in their eyes.” For the more extensive informal photographs, Yates and Macaisa captured the Jesuits’ personalities in action, portraying them in locations and poses that were meaningful to them.
“Technically I used all the tricks I knew,” said Macaisa, who worked extensively with the university photographer during his undergraduate years and is now in business as a freelance photographer. “What I learned a lot about on this project was the relationship between the viewer of an image and the image itself, and that the relationship can be crafted in advance.”
From idea to publishing, the project took two years. Each of the formal images were shot over two weekends; the informal portraits each took two hours to complete and took up pretty much every weekend of Yates’ senior year. Yates is now working on the same type of project for Loyola of Chicago for the 150th anniversary of the university. He’s also talked to representatives at Fordham about portraits of their Jesuits.
To learn more about the stories, read their blog or purchase the book, check out their website, natureoftheway.org.