SAKU PAASILAHTIIn the hands of God
In the Hands of God - Life in Orthodox Monasteries in the Balkans
I have spent the past two years living and taking pictures in several Orthodox monasteries in Serbia and Montenegro. I have been allowed to roam and photograph freely, also in places usually closed to outsiders. Living and working with the monks has given me an opportunity to study monastic life as well as to make personal acquaintances with the monks as individuals.
Throughout my travels in Yugoslavia, I have been surprised by the strong influence of monasteries on the daily life of "ordinary townspeople". The people I have met effortlessly intertwine in their lives the traditions of the Orthodox Church and an urban lifestyle. The contrast between monastic life and the value systems of my own environment, having been raised in a consumer society, is immense.
The portraits allow me to examine the ways in which a spiritual philosophy is made manifest in the physical appearance, demeanour and presence of individuals. I have observed monks going about their daily tasks both inside monasteries and in the outside world, as well as their participation in religious ceremonies.
In addition to portraits, I have also photographed the architecture of the monasteries and their frescoes, which are of great value in terms of both cultural and art history. The monasteries in this region are invaluable testimony to the architecture and painting of the Byzantine era.