A photo essay by S. Billie Mandle
For 10 years I photographed the dark interiors of confessionals in Catholic churches around the United States. Confessionals hold traces of secrets and sins — traces from each penitent, traces from the Church. Each person seeks redemption surrounded by layers of past confessions. I was raised Catholic and as a queer woman my relationship to the Church is complex. Photographing with a large format camera and available light, I transformed the confessionals from places of stark binaries into sites that expose contradictions. These photographs are a way of grappling with darkness.
All work at The Commons is published under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
Billie Mandle is an artist based in Los Angeles and Western Massachusetts. Her work has been supported by grants from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Berkshire Taconic Trust and her images have been featured in publications such as Aperture, Cabinet, and Wired. She is an Associate Professor of Photography at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.
Billie’s book Reconciliation, from which this is excerpted, was published in summer 2020. It includes writings by Dorothy Day and Kirstin Valdez Quade.