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13 February 2020

Ordinary Beauty Between the Sacred and the Profane

13 February 2020 - Written by Lucia De Stefani

In his series We Became Everything, George Voronov investigates the rituals of religious and spiritual circles among Irish youth, discovering a path towards his own photographic vocation.

© George Voronov, from the series We Became Everything

When Irish photographer George Voronov emerged from a temazcal - the ancient ritual performed in sweat lodges of Mesoamerican origins - he felt like an eternity had passed. It had been just a few hours. This physical scorching experience, interrupted only by brief sips of fresh air, has a meaning that is highly symbolic; often associated with a womb, it’s a moment of rebirth.

Described by Voronov as “the hardest thing I've ever done,” this life-changing experience planted the seeds for We Became Everything, his project exploring religious practices among Irish youths. Fascinated that temazcals had been held for thousands of years - a primitive form of psychological therapy - Voronov began investigating the religious practices and beliefs of different circles as well as the commonalities they share: as moments of convening, confession, and communal enlightenment.

© George Voronov, from the series We Became Everything

Curiously, he turned his lens toward the youths, “a generation that has grown up against the backdrop of an increasingly secular society,” Voronov explains, “but also of social media and things that pull us away from spirituality.”

At public gatherings, he met with devotees both pious and secular, or he contacted them on Facebook or approached them in the streets. “No two people were the same,” yet what emerged was a shared yearning for an inner quietude, “escaping the pressure of a 21st century connected existence. It’s something that was really important to people, something that gave them the space [they] needed.”

© George Voronov, from the series We Became Everything

For the first time, he was walking up to Mormons in the streets rather than trying to cut short their missionary pitches; building rapport was the simpler of the two challenges he faced. He also needed to spell out the core message of his project - the spirituality he so adamantly sought to portray - and its larger meaning. Ultimately, he found it in the fleeting details of ordinary life.

“I realised, over the making of the project, that [the reason] photography is so important to me is its magical power to transform banal moments into little pieces of magic,” Voronov says. “That's what the project became about: finding these little moments in reality that might otherwise be quite ordinary, but then - through the process of photographing - they get elevated and almost seem hyper-real or magical.”

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George Voronov is an irish photographer based in Dublin. Follow him on PHmuseum and Instagram.

Lucia De Stefani is a reporter and writer focusing on photography, illustration, culture, and everything teens. She lives in New York. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.

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This article is part of the series New Generation, a monthly column written by Lucia De Stefani, focusing on the most interesting emerging talents in our community.

Written by

Lucia De Stefani


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