Guest Post

Church photos in the Smithsonian

Smithsonian magazine has announced the finalists in its annual photo contest. You can see them at the Smithsonian’s site, where voting for the Readers’ Choice Winner is open till May 6. All the photos are worth a look. 

But most striking of all, for Century readers, may be two portraits of churches. One is Peter Zajfrid’s photo of a tiny chapel by the side of the road in Slovenia: 

The other, by Michael Frank, is of the sanctuary of the abandoned Woodward Avenue Presbyterian Church in Detroit:

Frank’s image—submitted in the “altered” category—is stunning with its many textures, lines, and sepia tones. The church’s arches still lead the eye to the ceiling, where light coming through from windows adds a golden cast. The colors of stained glass gleam like miniature jewels, while an alcove to the left—with water-damaged walls and a painted cross—seems part of a Romanesque abbey.

But from the point of view of a Christian who loves congregations, the photo speaks of other things: the demise of denominations, the grief over a church closing, and a dreadful, empty silence.

What do you see?

Photos used by permission of Smithsonian magzine.

Debra Bendis

The Century contributing editor worked at the magazine from 1994 to 2017. She has degrees from North Central College and Northwestern University.

All articles »