Beautiful people: The monastic life

Photographer Fernando Moleres offers a peek into the intimate moments that accord some communities a union with the divine
Curated by: Madhu Kapparath
Published: Mar 1, 2016
Beautiful people: The monastic life

Image by : Fernando Moleres

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SPAIN La Oliva Trappist monastery has 18 monks. Like all belonging to the Cistercian order, they have opened a hostelry at the monastery and observe St Benedict’s maxim of “Ora et labora” (pray and work)


A monastery is, by far, the paragon of places to search for god. I have always been attracted to the convergence of the human with the divine.
Spirituality interests me, and has led me, over the years, to seek out monasteries all over the world. There is one thing I find they all have in common: Simplicity.
For me, spirituality is consciousness, an awareness that helps us connect to our essence. In a world where enjoying one hour of silence is a rare privilege, one can still find small communities searching for spiritual peace through silence, humility and prayer. This is how devout followers find meaning for their lives in monastic orders, as well as a shelter for living in harmony with themselves and others. Above all, they yearn to approach their own god.
During my work, I became engrossed in capturing the cornerstone of monastic life: Praying. It is that one moment that gives meaning to the lives of those who would be monks. The monk’s devotion during prayer is the most intimate moment that, for me, best communicates his faith.
I have never before done portrait photographs. The saying that the face reveals the “soul” does not convince me. Our awareness of a photographic lens converts us into managers of our appearance. I had to find the right environment and make sure the monk was not aware of being photographed so that I could broach the concept of devotion I wanted to convey.


About Fernando Moleres

Based in Barcelona, self-taught photographer Fernando Moleres has photographed current affairs related to human rights and social issues for over 24 years. Documentary photography, for Moleres, is a life-affirming attitude, a tool that lets him approach situations that “captivate me, preoccupy me, and make me want to participate”. Some of these stories, such as child labour exploitation or special juveniles in Sierra Leone prisons, got him deeply involved and he become a founder of a programme for social reintegration aimed at young ex-inmates.
As photographer, he also delves into subjects that transcend the present time, but intrigue him for their experience and expose him to other types of lives such as this series.
Moleres is the recipient of numerous awards and grants worldwide. He has exhibited widely and has four books to his credit.