Nobody ever accused Marten Holmes of being too conventional. Yet his photographic exhibition 'A Sideways Look' gives Christian tradition a new twist that makes non-Christians raise questions about faith.
Looking back to the time when he came to faith in Jesus as a young person, he found it hard to fit into a church. "Everything was so dated, the way people dressed and spoke. Even young people in the church seemed so old. It was all a bit tame."
Over the years, Marten was able to relate to people who came alongside him in the church. Recently, he again took an unconventional change of direction by looking into religious traditions – and then expressing them in modern terms.
It started when Marten decided to do a foundation course in photography and digital imaging. He chose to do a project using known religious art works, borrowing elements and presenting them in a different way. His chosen works deal primarily with Renaissance art.
In September, the St. Ives Festival Celebration of Music and Art provided the opportunity to showcase Marten Holmes' exhibition. The Last Supper remains a popular source of interest. Based on Da Vinci's famous mural, the striking photograph 'Supper' comes with an explanatory text. "This image has been moved from the Jewish Passover into a Christmas celebration, but has been posed with the disciples ignoring Jesus to reflect how Western society has left Christ out of Christmas."
Other photographs included both 'Eve' and 'Mary' using the same model. Alongside a reproduction of Rembrandt's painting 'The Prodigal Son', Marten Holmes' text explains the perspective of his photo. "I wanted to bring the older brother out of the shadows…Looking through 'Western eyes' we fail to see the depth of meaning in Jesus' words. It is the older son who is the rebellious one as he refuses his father's love and forgiveness."
'A Sideways Look' attracted hundreds of visitors over a five day period at the festival. A small team spoke with people at the exit and were able to distribute 500 Gospel tracts. Marten notes. "People really engaged with us. There was a gentle openness as they usually shared their own views of faith. Sometimes, our conversations delved into deeper meanings of Christianity."
People who signed the guest book commented on how the excellent photographs were very thought provoking. A former choir boy wrote that it really made him think and feel the need to come back. One visitor from Melbourne, Australia, summed up. "The best contemporary Christian arts stuff I've bumped into in six weeks of overdosing on churches."
Yet Marten says his favourite encounter was with a man who came a second day to bring friends who had missed the exhibition. "As his friends went off, he turned to talk to me as he wanted to ask questions regarding the photograph 'Adam'. It seems they have been discussing the exhibition at length over dinner the previous night and were still pondering it."