Photographers' Blog

Pilgrims in the Holy Land

Jerusalem

By Ronen Zvulun

Walking through the narrow alleys of Jerusalem’s Old City and visiting its myriad holy sites at this time of year is an even more vibrant and colorful experience than usual.

Born and raised in Jerusalem, I know these streets by heart. But around the time of Holy Week and Easter they take on a different tone, as people from all over the world converge on the walled city to visit its many points of pilgrimage.

As the crowds pour through the streets, often moving in compact groups of regimented tour parties, I find myself observing the individuals. In this project, I wanted my photographs to reveal the separate people who can so easily get lost amongst the hordes that arrive in the run-up to Easter.

I chose to photograph them in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the most famous church in Jerusalem, if not the world, which is built on the site where many Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

I wanted to show the uniqueness of each worshipper and I persuaded several individuals to leave their tour groups and stand, for a moment, in a quiet corner of the normally teeming Church.

New Mexico’s Holy Week

New Mexico

By Brian Snyder

The high desert of northern New Mexico, with Taos as its unofficial capital, is a confluence of cultures and eras.  Native American, Spanish, Mexican and American cultures co-exist and show themselves in both modern and old ways. Holy Week in this area is celebrated in a very public manner within the safety of the region, beyond the notice of much of the rest of the United States. The rites and customs are very much of the place and cultures found there.

On Holy Thursday a youth group re-enacted the Stations of the Cross at the Sanctuario de Chimayo. The Sanctuary is a church built over a source of sacred dirt that is believed to have healing powers. It is also the destination for thousands of pilgrims from all over during Holy Week. The youth group from Our Lady of Sorrows church in nearby Bernalillo has been doing the performance for years, with new teenagers replacing the previous year’s every year or two. The whips hitting the man playing the role of Jesus are real (though the blood is make-up) and the teens are convincing in their roles as Mary, the women of Jerusalem, Veronica and Roman soldiers.

If the pilgrimage at Chimayo is well-known and better publicized, the pilgrimage in Ranchos de Taos and Talpa on Good Friday is a very local, traditional and communal activity. The several mile walk begins at the famous San Francisco de Asis church in Ranchos and from there the Stations of the Cross are marked in various fields, front yards, moradas, and capillas along the route. Four men carry a large cross and lead the procession, with several hundred believers following behind. In many ways Good Friday is the apex of Holy Week. Worshipers, including many young people, pray out loud, sing, and even chat and laugh with one another as they make their way through the countryside.