Photo-essay: Photographer captures a year in the life of a parish priest, and reconnects with his own faith

A photographer who spent a year shadowing and documenting the life of a parish priest in South London reconnected with his own faith after experiencing "the many kindnesses alive in the church today".

Holy oilsJim Grover

When a friend challenged Jim Grover to create a photo-essay, he thought the working life of a priest "could make an interesting story."

So he approached Kit Gunasekera, the priest of his local church St James' Clapham, and asked if he could follow and photograph him for a year. He soon found out that this is the first time a work of this kind had been focused on a parish priest. 

Good FridayJim Grover

During the year Grover spent photographing Gunasekera, he witnessed the many challenges of running a small church. But, he said, "as I experienced more of Kit and his life, of his very diverse congregation, of the people he connects with in his Parish, of the fellow priests that he works with in the community... bigger and more powerful themes became clear.

"Of spiritual strength... of the energy-giving properties of belief... of service and commitment... of the many kindnesses alive in the church today... of the value of community... and of the power of faith."

Pastoral visitJim Grover

The year made a significant, if unexpected, impact on the photographer's life. " I've been privileged to experience some intense, intimate, and beautiful moments that will stay with me for a very long time. And, most significantly, I've been inspired by Kit, his ministry, his resolve, his faith, and his beliefs. As a result, I have learned more about myself and, totally unexpectedly, have reconnected with my own faith, which gives me new purpose and energy. And that is quite some bonus!" Grover said.

Young at HeartJim Grover

The photo-essay has been curated, and thousands of photos reduced carefully to 46 images, into an exhibition entitled "Of Things Not Seen: A Year in the Life of a London Priest", which will be held in the Oxo Tower gallery between 2-20 March.

At prayerJim Grover

The exhibition's name derives from a passage in the book of Hebrews: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."