Sunday, March 18, 2012

Breaking the Habit

Sister Bertrille (Sally Field) with her aeronautical wimple
As a child I had a strange, but not pathological, nervousness around nuns. I think it stemmed from my somewhat unholy music teacher, Sister Bernard. I guess things can only go from bad to worse when your playing scales is accompanied by the question " Why did God name you after a dog?" Needless to say my flirtation with the catholic faith was tempered by the rabid rantings of the aforesaid sister. Unlike the charitable Sally Field (a.k.a Sister Bertrille) my teacher inhabited a dark, red brick convent, which backed on to the tennis club. Her favourite pastime was to beat my brother over his knuckles with a ruler when he missed a note. My question at this point would be if all convents were like that of The Flying Nun in Puerto Rico then surely they'd be in a better mood with their vulnerable charges!

Actually, on a serious note (yes... really!) I have often admired the work of these women but my designers eye has been fascinated by their headgear. As an ancient history student we were taught that the Vestal Virgins in  Rome later  became nuns with the rise of Christianity. I think it's the organic form of their wimples which transforms them into something quite beautiful. En masse they could be a bunch of orchids or alternatively an architectural framework. Good works aside, it's easy to see why they make such good subject material for photography!

David Moore's seminal image of the Sister's of Charity in Washington DC, 1956.

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