Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Painful

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/14/too-painful-to-remember-or-to-forget/?partner=rss&emc=rss

December 14, 2010, 5:00 am Too Painful to Remember, or to Forget
By DAVID GONZALEZ
One by one, the stories stun and stagger. Children barely young enough for school, raped by the priests who befriended them. Teenagers, invited to sleepovers at the rectory. Seminarians, manipulated and seduced by their confessors.

Their stories are at the heart of “Crosses — Portraits of Clergy Abuse,” a book by Carmine Galasso, who traveled throughout the United States to document the devastated lives of men and women who were betrayed by the very Roman Catholic priests and nuns they had once admired and trusted.

Mr. Galasso, 59, a photographer for The Record in New Jersey, was casting about for a personal project almost 10 years ago. He was drawn to the reports of abuse that were then coming to light in Boston.

“I was appalled,” he said. “I had gone to Catholic grammar school and two Catholic high schools but I had no idea this had happened. I was so naïve.”

He set out to produce a set of compelling portraits of survivors accompanied by interviews that would allow them to emerge more fully from the headlines. He found them through a network of local and national advocacy groups for survivors of clergy abuse.

“I didn’t know at first what the response was going to be,” Mr. Galasso said. “But I learned people felt it was therapeutic to talk about what had happened to them. They have a real need to talk about what happened and let people know. It wasn’t just their story. It was a huge story.”

Mr. Galasso sought a broad range of survivors. He spoke with them at length. He relied on his journalistic instincts, stepping back from some subjects if their stories did not sound right. In many cases, he spoke with lawyers, to see if cases had been settled through litigation, figuring that anyone “serious enough to go through that torture” was sufficiently credible.

In cases where the person’s claims could not be verified or documented, Mr. Galasso said, he would not include them in the final edit.

His evocative black-and-white images range from abstract to straightforward. A few subjects were photographed outside buildings where they said they had been abused, but most were shown at home or in their neighborhood, looking vulnerable, stoic or on guard. The tales hinted at in the pictures are discussed in often searing monologues culled from hours of recorded interviews.

No American publisher would take on his project, he said, but Trolley Books in London ultimately accepted it. Soon after its publication, it was singled out for notice by Photo District News. The recent news of Europe’s own abuse sandals has led Mr. Galasso to explore the possibility of exhibiting the portraits overseas. He may also do more with the audio interviews.

He knows that his work is criticized. But it’s his nature, he said, to stand up to those who bullied others. Criticism, he said, is not bias.

“I didn’t set out to destroy the church,” Mr. Galasso said. “This has saddened me. I’m not a religious guy, but I still have some sense of religion. This was happening in my church. In my religion. I’m not naïve to think it doesn’t happen in other faiths as well. But I’m concerned about my religion. It meant something to me.”

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