2000 — student runner-up
After working and assisting in the commercial photography world in Seattle, James received his master's degree in photojournalism from the School of Visual Communication at Ohio University in 2001. While at Ohio, he was in the top ten from hundreds of applicants for the 2001 National Geographic Magazine internship. Additionally, James was named College Photographer of the Year by the National Press Photographers Association and received a student documentary grant from the Alexia Foundation for World Peace.
James' work has appeared in national and international publications, and in a handful of juried exhibitions.
In the wake of school shootings that have focused much of the U.S. public’s attention on gun control and public school safety, America’s youth are quietly finding their own answers- not in policy, but in spirituality. My proposal is to document their pursuit of faith – be it Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, or simply meditation- and show a contemporary youth religious movement that promises hope and peace for generations to come.
My documentary focuses on young people, ages 10 to 25. Observers say that the youth and young adults of today’s society are more accepting of and interested in spirituality than previous generations. Through my photographs, the faces and actions of the members of this new religious movement will give deeper dimension to these findings.
Some say that this youth religious movement is motivated by fear, stemming from Columbine and the subsequent rash of school shootings across the nation. While Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold may have seared their images onto the nation’s collective conscience, Cassie Bernall more accurately represents her generation. Bernall, who was killed at Columbine after professing her belief in God, is hailed by U/S/ religious leaders as a hero.
Bernall’s spirituality is not an exception. “Christianly and Judaism, the two ancient bulwarks of Western religion, are attracting increased interest among the millions of Americans ages 19 to 35. But while this generation’s spirit is willing, it remains to be seen whether the flesh is able, as far as religious practice goes”. Insight on the News columnist Michael Rust observed in 1998. “’Generation x’-the post baby boomers born in the late 1960s and 1970s- was reared in the transient culture of divorce, absentee parenting, media saturation, frequent changes in residence and laissez-faire ethics. Many are searching for an alternative”. In addition, Rev. Susan Astarita, an Episcopal minister at the University of Maryland, told the Associated Press that same year that students are less cynical and discovering bigger questions that the secular life can't answer. Michael Kress, in an August 1999 Publisher’s Weekly article, put it this way: “Gen-Xers may disdain rituals and rules, but they are consumed by their search for spirituality and the transcendent, albeit on their own terms and in their own ways”.
One of these ways can be seen in Chauncy, Ohio, where I am currently working on a picture story about Wendell Humphrey, a Native American Shaman who, each month, leads about a dozen college students from around the region in sweat-lodge ceremonies. Additionally, I belong to a Presbyterian U.S.S. church in downtown Seattle that broke away from the traditional church to offer Gen-Xers a new style of music and worship. “Recognizing the emerging culture of postmodernism, we wanted to establish a church that could speak to the postmodern culture without in any way compromising the timeless content of the gospel,” said the Rev. Dr. Randy Rowland of the Seattle Church. “ I am convinced that the Christian church needs to adopt a more missional approach to being the church in postmodern culture”.
These are but two of the many contacts I have already made for this documentary I intend to pursue. I am excited about the possibilities for the project and intend to work on it for at least the next calendar year.
It is my hope that the values of my generation and the next will serve to better this nation and help create an attitude that promotes acceptance of our differences, not only through its ever-expanding concept of spirituality, but also through the path of peace that members of this youth religious movement are taking. I would be honored to have the Alexia Foundation support me in this endeavor and thank you for your consideration.