Jean Schnell | The Meetinghouse Project

The Meetinghouse Project

April 17, 2014  •  3 Comments

When I was just beginning in photography in 2005, I took a class in composition.  One day as part of an assignment, I decided to take some objects over to Framingham Meeting and photograph them there, because I knew the natural light was so wonderful in the Meetinghouse.  One of the pictures was a row of 5 blueberries balanced on a green, somewhat rotting, doorsill.  Thus began a long journey, still ongoing, of learning how to take really good pictures.  The picture of blueberries no longer exists, but after I photographed the 5 blueberries, I took a few pictures of the interior of the Meetingroom  bathed in natural light.  I returned many, many times to take photographs of the interior and exterior of the Meetinghouse. When I showed a selection of my Framingham pictures to the FFM community, the response was overwhelming to me, and very gratifying.  It seemed that my pictures touched some universal "feeling" that represented the experience of being in Framingham Meeting.  

For quite some time now, I have tried to figure out how to continue with the idea of photographing in Quaker Meeting, and at the same time do something that would be a new experience for me.  Recently, I hit upon the idea of photographing in all New England Quaker meetinghouses.  I began to investigate the idea and as I did, I got more and more excited.  Also, I got more and more overwhelmed.  If I just photograph meetinghouses (as opposed to meetings held in homes, community centers, and other buildings), there are still approximately 46 meetinghouses in use by Monthly Meetings throughout New England.  There are an additional 7 (approximately) meetinghouses that are not in active use, but are preserved as museums or historical buildings.   I also plan to blog about my experiences, as I will be learning a lot about Quakerism in New England while I am having fun with photography.  

Since this project is overwhelming in number and scope, I have promised myself to begin small (or smaller) and just begin with Massachusetts meetinghouses, and then just see where it goes. I will see how much energy, and interest, and money I still have, and then go from there..

​I am beginning this project armed with the support of my Meeting community, the support of a smaller unofficial support group within the Meeting (who will keep me firmly rooted in 'Quaker' as opposed to photography for the fun of it), the support of family and friends, the support of a photographic mentor group that will aid in my artistic editing endeavors, and a passion for photographing Quaker meetinghouses.  

​I call the picture below "Lucy's Cushions".  My friend Lucy sat on these cushions every Sunday until her death about a year ago.  I still miss her.  

Lucy's CushionsLucy's Cushions  




Steven Kramer(non-registered)
This is a great image from a great series. I really love the story behind this, and learning more about the special meaning this image has to you. That said, I think this is a profoundly universal image that stands on its own. Nice work.
E Grace(non-registered)
Jean, thank you for the lovely reminder of Lucy. I am so excited for you -- I think this project is really going to "feed" you.
Donald Forbes(non-registered)
Even though I do not consider myself a good Quaker I always respected their values and Lucy was the perfect example of a gentle Quaker and wonderful loving woman. Rest in peace Lucy.
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