“Noema” Michael Swan’s fascinating photography investigation into Medjugorje and Garabandal – A photo of Mirjana like no other.

Source: The British Journal of Photography

The work he is making as part of his MA in photography at the University of West England in Bristol is an extension of that long-standing connection to theology. His project, titled Noema, traces two instances of contemporary, collective and reoccurring apparitions of the Virgin Mary, the first in Garabandal (Spain, 1961-1965) and the second in Medjugorje (Bosnia & Herzegovina, 1981-Present). In both cases, groups of children had simultaneous visitations from the Virgin on an almost daily basis, which involved conversations, messages, miracles and warnings. He shot the project across two years, visiting Garabandal twice, and Medjugorje later for one extended trip.

© Michael Swann.

Noema is an attempt at using photography to express the ineffable, or the phenomenological –  “the experience of experience,” he explains, “what it means or feels like to see” – and mixes different types of images together, including black-and-white photographs and red scale images depicting parts of his explored landscapes, details of the stone structures of churches and statues, and video stills. “I shoot in both black and white and colour while on location, and I treat that fairly intuitively. When I began working on this project I knew that there had to be a human presence, but taking straight portraits of the visionaries, witnesses or believers seemed a bit fruitless. Instead, I wanted to include images of the seers while seeing, at the point when they were in the presence of the Virgin. I made stills from the footage and rephotographed them, closely cropped, on a screen, therefore adding a layer of pixels and digital degradation to the images and highlighting the separation between the viewer and the experience.”


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