Toni Greaves, Photographer
The sudden revelation of a powerful religious calling was an entirely unexpected event in the life of a college student named Lauren. But when it became clear to her that she had a spiritual vocation, she made the exceptional decision to dedicate her life to God. Drawing upon many visits to the cloistered religious community of Dominican nuns in Summit, New Jersey, photographer Toni Greaves has created a luminous body of work that follows the transformative journey by which Lauren became Sister Maria Teresa of the Sacred Heart. Greaves’ meditative photographs capture the radical joy of a life dedicated unequivocally to love.
On October 6, 2015, Toni Greaves joins BCSR to present and discuss her long-term project photographing within a community of cloistered nuns, her personal journey along the way, and the just-published monograph of this seven-year body of work.
“Radical Love, Toni Greaves’ documentary of a young woman who chooses to become a cloistered Dominican nun, highlights why ‘we’—‘normal,’ secular, or even not so secular persons wholly anchored in the ‘world’—are often so taken aback at the sight of others, who make life-changing turns toward the divine. Christian nuns and monks, especially those who chose a life of radical withdrawal from this world, are often considered relics of the past, or suspected of not being fully equipped for modern life, and it can be a shock to see that they are quite clearly neither, but rather ‘ordinary’ persons enjoying life to the full when they are called to love God radically. If they are not in some way peculiar then what does such radical love say about the rest of us? Women and men who live a life of ascetic, withdrawn monasticism are living embodiments of a life that questions many of our assumptions. Without rejecting what we do, they embrace a life that is wholly other, while still very much like ours: they have fun, they cook, they play sports, they run their website and do their accounts, and they are cloistered nuns, brides of Christ.What does their choice of life, their vocation, reveal about our current society? Why do we—or why does Toni Greaves—consider their love so radical? This book and its subject matter bring into focus some of the central themes of BCSR: the heuristic value of religion for the understanding of any society, ours included.” Susanna Elm, Director, BCSR
Toni Greaves is a documentary photographer based in Portland, Oregon, and working worldwide. Born and raised in Australia, she earned her MA in Visual Communication Design prior to graduating from the International Center of Photography in New York City. She is the recipient of many awards and honors, including Pictures of the Year International (POYi), Visa pour l’Image, Palm Springs Photo Festival, PDN’s 30, Communication Arts, American Photography, Review Santa Fe, and Critical Mass’ top 50, among many others. Her photographs have been featured in magazines and publications internationally, including the New York Times Magazine, Time, Al Jazeera America, Le Monde, Marie Claire, and The Wall Street Journal, among many others, and her work has been exhibited around the globe. Her first photographic monograph, Radical Love, is scheduled for a September release from Chronicle Books.
Photo: Toni Greaves