Imagine being the photojournalist to the saints, documenting their incredible lives through pictures, getting to know them as you attempt to capture the perfect shot. You would study their actions, learn what drives them, and act as a conduit of inspiration for others through your photos.
In a sense, Kristyn Brown does just that. Based in Philadelphia, Kristyn is the mind behind The Saints Project, a modern portrayal of Catholic saints. She approaches timeless icons with contemporary methods like photography and Photoshop to bring them to life in a new way. Through her photographs, she grows closer to the saints, who bring her closer to Christ. And she conveys their love of Christ to others simply by portraying their extraordinary lives.
In the article below, Kristyn shares this experience in her own words.
I started photography very young. I remember “borrowing” my parents’ film camera and using a lot of film to take pictures of my dolls (sorry mom). It was always a part of my life, but I didn’t take it very seriously until I was around twenty-two, when I moved to Los Angeles. Out there, everyone needed photos, so I had plenty of learning opportunities, but I wasn’t feeling fully satisfied by the work. Eventually my husband and I moved back to the Philadelphia area, and I started The Saints Project, which was one of those “light bulb moments.” I always wanted to find a way to fuse my passion for photography and my passion for my faith, and this was the way for me.
I would describe my art as using contemporary methods with traditional style. My goal is is to create an image that appears both modern and classic, blurring the line visually for the viewer. Most people aren’t sure if they’re looking at a photograph or a painting, and that’s how I know I’ve done it right. The tradition of sacred art has had a huge impact on my work and style. I look to the inspiring works of masters like Caravaggio all the time.
The saints are a major inspiration for me. Every saint is so different and interesting, I never lose steam when it comes to getting excited. I love to include the saint I am working on into my prayer life, asking for their intercession for the portrayal and that they be represented in a way that would impact the most people.
My art has a huge influence on my life, maybe not so much in the final product, but in the process. The process of creating a saint image feels like my deepest prayer. I feel I am being what I was designed to be and fulfilling God’s will for me specifically when I am knee deep in the unique creativity of portraying saints. Every image feels like an offering, as well, and I’ll often get to work on a saint that I am asking for prayers for a special need or for a friend.
The blessing of being a Catholic artist far outweigh the challenges. My favorite thing is that I am not in control and the project isn’t about me. It’s about sharing spiritual role models with as many people as possible. Also, I’ll never run out of material because there are thousands of canonized saints, so I never have to worry about dry periods or artist block!
It’s also a blessing that people have responded to The Saints Project with so much enthusiasm. That was something I truly did not expect. I started making the portraits out of desire and love of the saint and my faith—I never intended to share them and definitely never expected for the project to become what it has.
In the future, I am most excited about the release of a project I did with Spirit Juice Studios and musician Amanda Vernon! It was one of those moments where you think, “How did I get here?” I’m also excited to finish my Apostles series, and start a new series of images of Our Lady from around the world.
To learn more about Kristyn Brown and The Saints Project, visit her website here.