Brenda Bancel © 2012

Brenda Bancel © 2012

Finding the Sacred on the Sacred River

Brenda Bancel

December 10- December 20 

Artist Reception Sunday, December 14 5-8PM

Brenda Bancel © 2012

Brenda Bancel © 2012

Brenda Bancel followed her dream of going to the Hindu spiritual festival in Varanasi India by attending a workshop with award winning photographer John Stanmeyer.

Upon arrival, it was completely different than what she had imagined. Blocked by images of dead bodies and cremations, she struggled to find where her camera wanted to focus. After three days, she fell in love. She found what was sacred to her on the sacred river Ganges.

Come see her journey of finding herself amongst the madness of India and hear what can happen when you listen to your photographs.

Read Brenda Bancel's article about her trip on All About Photo

View Elin Spring's Review Below

Brenda Bancel © 2012

Brenda Bancel © 2012

Brenda Bancel © 2012

Brenda Bancel © 2012


WHAT WILL YOU REMEMBER?- ELIN SPRING: "FINDING THE SACRED ON THE SACRED RIVER"

DECEMBER 16, 2014

Guest Blog by Alyssa Minahan, with Elin Spring

Documentary photographer Brenda Bancel set out on a two-week trip to the Hindu spiritual festival in Varanasi, India for a workshop led by award-winning photojournalist John Stanmeyer with the idea of capturing meditative images.  Instead, she was confronted with the harsh reality of the region – poverty, disease and death. For the first leg of her trip, these were the images, thoughts and smells that defined her experience – until something unexpected happened

“Akash and Gorak” archival inkjet print by Brenda Bancel

“Akash and Gorak” archival inkjet print by Brenda Bancel

“Cotton Candy” archival inkjet print by Brenda Bancel

“Cotton Candy” archival inkjet print by Brenda Bancel

A group of children, beggars selling prayer candles, asked Bancel for a ride on the boat she had hired to take her across the Ganges River. These nine boys and girls would become her captivating subjects in a documentary project that became “Finding the Sacred on the Sacred River,” now showing at 555 Gallery through December 20th, 2014.

The exhibition captures Bancel’s spiritual quest to find light in the darkest of places.  Urged by Stanmeyer to push her boundaries and photograph unsavory subjects, Bancel eschewed recording the sensational suffering of the people she encountered.  Rather, she chose to focus on the transcendence and symbols of hope she discovered in the children of Varanasi.  Despite daunting conditions of squalor, they were first and foremost children, reveling in treats of cotton candy, rides on a boat and swimming in the calm, clean side of the river.  Their guileless expressions speak a universal language.

“Temple Jump 1” archival inkjet print by Brenda Bancel

“Temple Jump 1” archival inkjet print by Brenda Bancel

The show is dominated by large, colorful photographs of children running on the wide sandy shore and performing somersaults into the river below. By emptying the frame of any reference to the conditions in which the children live, Bancel creates a sense of spaciousness and serenity. Her soft palette of pastels reinforces a sense of optimism.

The vibrant pink of cotton candy or bright green sequins on a girl’s dress accent the carefree abandon.  While these stand in sharp contrast to images of the same children perched in their small, cramped homes or begging on the street for rice, Bancel’s emphasis is clearly on the pure and humbling wonder of youthful spirit.

“Moni Twirls” archival inkjet print by Brenda Bancel

“Moni Twirls” archival inkjet print by Brenda Bancel

Taken together, the images in this exhibition reveal how one woman’s photographic expedition led to dual revelations: the universality of childhood hopefulness and the discovery by Bancel of her own spiritual compass.  Those seeking the spirit of the season will relish this transformative journey.