Alain de Lotbinière. 15. Lake Ohrid, from the Church of Saint John the Theologian, Kaneo, North Macedonia

Spirituality in Eastern Christianity: Images of a Living Tradition

September 22, 2023—January 21, 2024

The Museum of Russian Icons presents Spirituality in Eastern Christianity: Images of a Living Tradition, Photographs of Alain de Lotbinière. This exhibition comprises 23 breathtaking black-and-white images that explore the holy sites of Northern Macedonia, Serbia, and Russia, as well as sites in Turkey and Egypt.

Christianity spread rapidly during its first few centuries. By the fourth century CE it had taken root not only within the Roman and Byzantine Empires, but also in countries that today include Syria, Iraq, Iran, India, Egypt, and Ethiopia. Each culture developed their own religious practices and traditions.

The schism of 1054 CE that separated the Eastern and Western churches resulted in fundamentally different expressions of spirituality. Whereas the Western Christian tradition teaches that the way to know God is mainly through the word of the Bible and the light of human reason, the Eastern approach is decidedly experiential, the image of God being contained in the “Nous,” or heart, of a person’s being. Eastern Christian spiritual traditions hold that through the experience of the Holy Mysteries a direct knowledge of God is possible.

“For those of us educated in the Western traditions of humanism and intellectual reasoning, it may be difficult to comprehend the Orthodox traditions when it comes to their reverence for icons, examples of which adorn this museum,” states de Lotbinière. “For the Orthodox believers, icons are not images that are worshiped in the traditional sense of the word, but rather images that are venerated, being seen as windows to the spiritual realm. This reverence is witnessed whenever we step into an Orthodox church, as hopefully some of these images succeed in conveying.”

The majority of the images were taken with Leica monochrome digital cameras, in which the color filter array present in all other digital cameras is removed, thereby allowing more light, and consequently more detail, to be registered on the sensor. A distinct advantage in monochrome digital cameras is their ability to extract detail in very low light conditions, such as those present inside churches or monasteries. Another important advantage in using Leica monochrome digital cameras is their compact and noiseless design, lending themselves superbly to discreet photography in sensitive locations. Digital Silver Imaging photo lab printed and mounted the photographs.

About the Artist

Alain C.J. de Lotbinière is a practicing neurosurgeon who lives in Connecticut, USA. The son of a Canadian diplomat, his early education was formed in several European countries: Holland, France, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, before returning to Canada to complete his medical training in the field of neurosurgery. Photography runs deep in the family, his father having given him his first camera on his fourteenth birthday. His great-great-great-grandfather, Pierre Gustave Joly de Lotbinière, acquired one of the first daguerreotype cameras from the Parisian optician, Noël Paymal Lerebours, and set off to the Middle East in 1839 to make photographic records of the ancient monuments in Greece, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, several of which were published in 1842 as lithographs in Excursions Daguerriennes. Having just published a book based on his travels through medieval parts of Russia, de Lotbinière is currently working on a book focused on 19th-century travel to Egypt and