Over the last year, award-winning photographer Jim Grover, with his Leica camera, has been shadowing Kit Gunasekera.
Kit is Grover’s local vicar and this body of work brings to life what it is to be a Church of England minister in a South London community today. This is the first time that the daily life of a priest has been recorded in this way, making it a remarkably unique project. The photo-story is a visual form that began with W. Eugene Smith, and Grover’s year in the life of Kit reflects that heritage.
Entitled Of Things Not Seen: A Year in the Life of a London Priest, the series follows Kit in his vicarage, his church, his parishioners' homes, in care homes, on the streets of Clapham, and with his fellow priests in the community. From over 15,000 images, 40 have been chosen to go on display at gallery@oxo on London's South Bank, which distils both Kit’s professional role as priest and lynchpin of the church community, and his personal faith.
The daily routines of running a church with financial pressures and a mission to increase the congregation are reflected in the project, alongside the joys and rewards of having a vocation with a strong calling and a higher purpose.
Kit remarks: "I didn't know what to expect when we began this project, except that I was determined to be as authentic as possible. Due to Jim’s thoughtfulness and sensitivity, it was as if he wasn't there! This helped me to be myself and to do things as I would normally, without feeling the need to produce anything. As the project developed what struck me was that it was about people. This should be no surprise because ministry is really about people."
With this exhibition, Grover wants to convey Kit’s personal story to the viewer and, through that, a sense of the extraordinary fellowship that inner-city church communities can still provide. Grover said: "I wanted a project that was literally on my doorstep that involved local people and gave me a glimpse into a different world. Part of this was also the desire for a new photographic challenge that spanned over many months and would allow me to really explore below the surface. I wanted to challenge myself by shooting in black and white like the original photo-essayists such as Eugene Smith. It’s been enlightening, inspiring, challenging and rewarding in equal measures."
Launching at gallery@oxo from Wednesday 2 March 2016. Nearest underground stations are Waterloo, Southwark and Borough. The nearest railway station is Blackfriars. The exhibition will be open Monday to Sunday, 11am until 6pm and it's free.