"Believers" Art Exhibit Examines Faith Around the World

Art Show

CHICAGO, IL (February 4, 2008) – A popular photography exhibit examining the role of faith in the lives of people around the world ran in the Brandel Library during the month of February. The exhibit, called "Believers", featured the works of Theresa Bertocci, a Chicago-area native and freelance photographer.

The photographs were not taken specifically for the exhibit, which began January 30, but were culled from thousands shot during Bertocci's travels in the United States, Mexico, India, Cambodia, Thailand, and China.

One of the observers' favorites has been a picture taken in 2005 during Bertocci's visit to the Indian city of Varanasi, which Hindus consider the holiest of the cities on the sacred Ganges River. The photograph captures worshipers in various stages of preparing to enter or leave the river.

"There, every day at dawn and dusk, thousands of devotees from near and far converge on the River's banks to pray to their gods and goddesses, bathe away their sins in the Ganges' holy waters, and prepare their souls for their next reincarnation," Bertocci recalls. "I was awestruck at how freely and unashamedly the Hindu believers displayed their faith: they were absolutely sure of the meaning and purpose of their lives."

Individuals and small groups have clustered around the picture of a Muslim woman completely covered by a black two-piece burqa with face veil as she makes her way full-stride through the city, her clothing contrasted against the backdrop of a rough-hewn white wall.

Bertocci laughs as she notes that a pair of photographs—one showing the hands of a Catholic priest blessing the Eucharist and another showing Muslims kneeling in prayer—were taken less than a mile from each other in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeport.

Other photographs are filled with emotions ranging from humor to grief, and acts of faith that include singular church ritual and gathered public anti-war protests. "I found it more difficult to gain access to photograph religious gatherings and ceremonies," Bertocci says. "In Asia, however, where religion and life are often so intertwined, they are virtually inseparable; many sacred events are performed in public, and thus are more easily photographed."

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; as well as North Park University's Brandel Library, Campus Theme Program, and Department of Women's Studies.