Oseira Monastery, A Life Of Prayer

by Senén Germade

Foto © Senén Germade

Foto © Senén Germade


As part of this assignment I have worked on a photo story documenting the life of the Cistercians monks at Oseira Monastery in Galicia, Spain.
Finally I decided to present this story as a multimedia piece under the title “Oseira Monastery, A Life Of Prayer”. Anyone can watch the film by doing a click on the image above or on the next link:

Oseira Monastery, A Life Of Prayer
Critical Report

This project has born with the idea of documenting the life of the Cistercians monks at the Monastery of Oseira in Galicia, Spain. I manage to get access to this community and the main goal was to portray their daily life inside the monastery and trying to find the mystery of a life dedicated to prayer. From an anthropological point of view I think this community of Cistercians monks is quite interesting in the sense they have a particular lifestyle. The spiritual purpose of the community is manifested especially in the liturgical celebration. They spend much of the day in prayers to fulfill the priestly function of Christ, offering to God a sacrifice of praise and interceding for the salvation of everyone. In the other hand the monastic life is a life of work, because it should be a life of poor. They have to work for a living. These monks make poverty an essential element in their lives. And the consequence of this poverty is the need to work. The monastic work is the element that contributes the most to the balance of Cistercian life.

In the Oseira monastery due to the big dimensions of the building each of the monks has a clearly defined occupation. But this is not the only occupation they have because they also carry the maintenance and upkeep of the building, the laundry, the garden, the library, the liquor production, the bakery, the hives, the inn, the shop…

I decided to work in a theme involving religion and its rituals because I find very strong some of the imagery taken by the Spanish photographer and member of Magnum Cristina García Rodero in her series “España Oculta”. The photographs in this series where taken during a journey she did for different towns in different regions of Spain between 1975 and 1988. They capture humans, their beliefs, festivals and activities in a popular and traditional framework. This series of images reflects the ritual elements of the party and, at the same time, shows the pure expression of the religious faith and also the role of the bulls in the various Spanish regional celebrations.

In this project I knew from the beginning that I would work following a classic structure of a traditional photo essay. But once in the monastery while I was following the monks in their daily routine I realized how present chants and prayers were in their lives. Was then when I decided that I didn’t want to sacrifice all this audible information. So, I started to record the prayers and any other sounds I though it could be useful to enhance the story. It was the first time that I was recording audio and I was not very familiar with the wave/mp3 recorder but I need to say that I enjoyed the process and I have learnt a lot during that time.

I had been taking photos and recording audio and, at the end of the day,  I had to blend them together. For this reason I decided to present the final body of work as a multimedia piece where I could mix everything I got during my stay at the monastery. My initial idea was to work in black and white. By then I was planning to present the work as a series of photos with captions. But finally I decided to work on a multimedia piece and now I wasn’t too sure if I would keep the idea of working in black & white. I had some doubts. So, I started doing some research. I watched some multimedia bodies of work in black & white like “Brooklyn Gang” with photos by Bruce Davidson, “Between Heaven And Earth” with photos by Cristina García Rodero, “Children Of The Lotus” with photos by Abbas, “Capitolio” with photos by Christopher Anderson, “Picnic With Sergey” with photos by Bruce Gilden, “The Shipping Forecast” with photos by Mark Power, “Access to Life: Rwanda” with photos by Gilles Peress or “Requiem in Samba” by Alex Majoli. I found really interesting the aesthetic and the strength of these short black and white movies. Definitely I decided to carry on with my initial idea and present my project as a black and white multimedia piece.

The next gallery shows a selection of the pictures taken. Please click on any of them to check the whole gallery and captions.