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  • Writer's pictureDiocese of WNC

Behind the Art of our Conference Centers: A Chat with Lauri Sojourner and Margaret Love

The June 1985 cover of National Geographic has remained one of the most discussed and controversial covers of all time. Stephen McCurry's "Afghan Girl" truly is striking--the green eyes of the young subject stare straight at the camera from beneath a red headscarf. Taken in the Nasir Bagh refugee camp in Pakistan during Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the photo, one could argue the photo has become the most widely, recognized photo of the 20th century. (Source: Huxley Parlour)

Margaret Love remembers seeing the photo for the first time. In fourth grade at the time, Love shares that the photo was one of the first times she recognized the true impact of photography on the world.

"I remember checking the mail one day when the magazine was delivered to my house and pulling off the brown paper cover," Love said. "I plopped, all breath leaving me, onto the steps and just stared at the green eyes filled with suspicion and suffering leaping from the front of the magazine. I couldn't look away from the girl -- about my age but worlds away. That was the moment when I knew what the art of photography could do, the stories it could tell, and the impact it could have."

Photo by Margaret Love
Photo by Margaret Love

"When I started traveling on my own, I felt a compelling need to capture the richness and diversity of the people and places I was experiencing," Love said. "The most immediate way I knew how to do that was to take photos. When I met the man who would eventually become my husband, we had a whirlwind romance and I ended up moving from South Carolina to Anchorage, Alaska within three months of meeting him. I bought myself a little Canon PowerShot camera for the drive across country, and it was in Alaska that I started developing my eye and learning more about technique. By the time we moved to the United

Kingdom in 2008, I was ready to upgrade to a DSLR camera. I spent the next several years photographing every random cathedral and heap of ruins I could find in Yorkshire and beyond."

Across the diocese, Lauri Sojourner, the director of Lake Logan Conference Center, found herself equally inspired by the world around her. Talented with watercolors, Sojourner's passion for the style grew from watching her mother and sister.

"My mom was a talented artist and my sister is also, and they have both inspired me to want to learn," Sojourner said. "About a year before she died, my mom gave me a class at the Aiken Center for the Arts as a Christmas gift. I really enjoyed it. After moving here a few months after that class, I put my paint brush down until the fall of this year. I saw a 2-hour class offered in Waynesville and signed up."

Since the class, Sojourner has reignited a love for painting, and now finds herself with the constant urge to paint the world and people around her. Preferring to paint small, Sojourner now practices her skills in a painting journal. The smaller format and more personal style of her paintings oftentimes helps her painting act as a form of meditation or prayer.

Painting by Lauri Sojourner
Paintings by Lauri Sojourner

"I have a 5x7 notebook that I use as sort of a painting journal," Sojourner said. "I've gone through five of them since October. I find it less intimidating to try something new when it's small or in a notebook. Painting is a great stress relief for me. During quarantine Lake Logan was receiving a lot of donations, and for a few weeks I made tiny paintings for all those donors. It was a great way for me to express thanks to them while managing my own stress over the pandemic."

Of all the paintings she has done, Sojourner credits a painting she created, based off a photo taken during an Episcopal Camp and Conference Center conference in January, as her favorite she has created. Through depicting a somber moment, the painting has an incredible sense of beauty and peace.

"We were being led to the gravesite of a slave on the Claggett Center property by Bishop Eugene Sutton of the Diocese of Maryland," Sojourner said. "The experience was very somber and incredibly beautiful. When I saw the photo, I couldn't wait to paint it. Someone showed Bishop Sutton a picture of my painting and he wanted it. Since it was in my notebook, I offered to paint another version of it for him. The second one is probably better technically, but I love that first one because it was so meaningful to me."

The original image from Sojouner's notebook.
The second image for Bishop Taylor.

Love also noted that her photography helps her feel closer to God. Like Sojourner, many of Love's subjects focus on day-to-day life, and help her seek out the beauty in the mundane.

"Photography absolutely connects me with creation," Love said. "Seeing the miraculous in the everyday through my camera lens is inspiring and sometimes humbling. My favorite subject-the richness of humanity in all its wrinkles and flaws and beauty-is a chance to see the face of the Divine."

Learn more about Lake Logan and Valle Crucis Conference Centers by visiting their websites.

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