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Feature Articles

The Sister/Associate relationship was established in 1972 so that individuals – lay women and men – could partner with the Sisters in responding to the Gospel in the spirit of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Close to 200 Associates reside throughout the US; in 2014 we will take the opportunity to get to know a few of them.

Associate Spotlight – Brother Gary Sawyer
Through the Lens of the Camera, Life Takes on a Special Meaning


Photo taken by Clement Aka

Few of us know Brother Gary Sawyer, Associate, without a camera in his hand! You have to look quickly because Gary moves swiftly throughout a room to capture those special moments that give life to an event long after it is passed. Gary was given five quotes by renowned photographers and asked to reflect on the loves and lessons he has gleaned from this hobby of his.

As I look back, in assessment of my life journey, it is clear that photography has been the main mode of creativity for me. In my middle childhood development years, I remember being very curious and extremely fascinated with cameras and picture taking. I quickly became the family historian, always arriving at events and gatherings with camera in hand. Now, as an obsessive enthusiast of photography, I have come to understand that I was searching for the essence of my subjects with the split-second click of the camera, and seeing the capture of these moments in time as a gift of deeper spiritual connection with God’s creation.

1.  “The camera makes everyone a tourist in other people’s reality and eventually in one’s own,” as stated by Susan Sontag, brings me to a place where familiarity with my subjects becomes clear. Sontag further actualizes this familiarity in another quote, “To photograph is to appropriate the thing photographed. It means putting oneself into a certain relation to the world that feels like knowledge.” I feel a strong sense of knowing something behind the camera that I might have never known before and more intimately about what I am shooting.

2.  “The virtue of the camera is not the power it has to transform the photographer into an artist, but the impulse it gives him to keep looking.”  Brooks Atkinson

This quote by Brooks Atkinson brings to mind the many opportunities I have had to photograph the dance of children through my years of teaching young children at Loyola School in Denver, Colo., and my current work as an early childhood educator at the Community College of Denver. I feel the impulse to keep looking for the presence of God in their play and their work. I find this same feeling reoccurring when photographing the Sisters and Associates which whom I most certainly experience over and again. God’s presence is always there.

3.  “What the human eye observes causally and incuriously, the eye of the camera notes with relentless fidelity.”  Bernice Abbott

Bernice Abbott’s work with black-and-white photography inspires a sense of artistry that reaches beyond the boundaries of everyday picture taking. A black-and-white image takes my desire to capture a true embodiment of a subject to deeper understanding of the natural. For me, such images speak of a true realism and tell the bare-bones story of what is untainted and perhaps even more refined.

4.  “Photography is a major force in explaining man to man.”  Edward Steichen

I am most impressed with Edward Steichen’s driven force to use photography to bring his sketches and paintings to a new level of aliveness. His experimentation with color photography led to an expression of fashion photography and greater insights to cultures and the commonality that we have “man to man.” This quote sparks my interest in photographing costuming and the impressions of historical value that bring us from the past to present. Fashion and costuming is how I connect with and learn about history.

5.  “Indeed the camera frequently enables us to look at people whom we would never otherwise see at all.”  David Chandler

David Chandler’s quote brings my enthusiasm with photography to the present. To capture the human emotion lends to the very passion of existence. Images of people in love, in prayer, in joy and tribulation convey what is so, and is caught so often in a single photograph. Capturing such images reach beyond who we know to a place where what we feel is God’s presence.

The Sisters of Charity have been a part of nearly all of my life. I was born and raised in Denver and attended Sacred Heart School, Loyola School and Cathedral High School. It was through the Sisters that I came to know what Brothers were all about. I got to know the Brothers of the Poor St. Francis and their work at Mount Alverno in Cincinnati. I entered the Brothers in 1984, and was part of the inner community novitiate program at Mount St. Joseph. I was with the Brothers for a while when I felt there was something else I was looking for in religious life, and I transferred to the newly developed community of Brothers out of New Jersey; the Emmaus Community of St Augustine. The community was very small and consisted of men who were looking for a different expression of religious life - the way I was. Our community was an external strand of the Augustinian Recollects, and was under the auspices of the Archdiocese of Newark. Our community has declined in membership severely over the past years, and has dissolved.

I have been an Associate with the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati for 11 years and thank God every day for the community and family that has so generously received me. My association with the SC community, particularly those in Denver, has given me reason to continue to live a vowed life … living in mission and charity. This is the 26th year of my commitment to the consecrated life as a Brother.

Written by Brother Gary Sawyer, Associate, with assistance from Associate Vicki Welsh.