First things first: I feel irresistibly drawn to the cover of this tome without being really aware what I’m looking at for I’m not thinking, or so it seems, I simply surrender to the simplicity of colour and form of this photograph. I only later learn what it shows: a shrine in David. T. Hanson’s residence in Fairfield, Iowa.
“The Cloud of Unknowing,” the press release informs, “showcases 133 photographs made between 1998 and 2011 at Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jain, Sikh, Parsi, Jewish, Christian, Native American, shamanistic, and New Age sites. This volume features famous temples, cathedrals, and synagogues as well as anonymous temporary shrines and ancient sites still in use that are monuments to the human spirit and all that it holds most sacred.”
After twenty years of investigating and documenting the contemporary North-American wasteland, “the hazardous remains of our industry and technology,” David T. Hanson felt “that I needed to try to find what Wallace Stegner called ‘a geography of hope.'”
Although spiritually inclined (by this I mean to believe – and sometimes experience – that everything is connected) but not into organised religion, shrines and other sites of worship, I mainly saw photographs of rather strange objects when glancing through the pages of this formidable work. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not anti-religion and do recall my time in a Catholic boarding school (also but not only) with, in hindsight, mostly positive feelings. Yet the older I get the stranger I find the variety of human beliefs – strange in the sense of incomprehensible (to me, that is).