Sharing a favorite photo

Every now and then I have a picture I just can’t share with people often enough. This is one of them.

I took this shot in early May in the world’s second largest church, located in Aparecida do Norte, Sao Paulo, Brazil, during my Rotary exchange. This woman prayed this way, face covered, for a good 20 minutes. She didn’t seem to notice or care about the steady stream of tourists and Catholic pilgrims.

A woman prays in the world's second largest church, located in Aparecida do Norte, Sao Paulo, Brazil in May, 2012. (ROSS COURTNEY/Yakima Herald-Republic)

And she never saw me. I guessed the distance, locked the focus and “hip shot” by holding the camera near the ground and tilting it slightly up. Of course, not each frame worked and it took a few tries. Eventually, a young man sitting behind her, possibly a son, asked me to stop.

I like the photo not just because it turned out well. I also was impressed by the woman’s spiritual concentration. And the moment stood out for me because the young man was one of the few people to show any hesitation about pictures in Brazil, where people usually gave me the ubiquitous “thumbs up” and posed, if anything. I wanted to go back to her later and ask what she prayed so earnestly about but never had the chance.

I shared this photo in a YHR gallery and a travel blog during the trip. I also include it in video presentations and slide shows I use during presentations about the exchange. If the photo showed her face, I would exercise a little more discretion. But her hands in front of her face have forever insured that one of the most personal photos I’ve ever taken will remain anonymous.


–Ross Courtney

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