Last week, we shared the work of Lauren Everett and her Rocky Horror portraiture project. This week, we’re proud to feature Devotion, a series of photographs exploring the inner worlds of Los Angeles’ alternative religion communities—specifically, those surrounding Santa Muerte. With a keen eye for detail, Everett provides a unique glimpse into private ceremonies, such as cleansing rituals and spiritual masses such as Misa Blanca. Also shown are candle-lit altars, where Santa Meurte herself can be seen, represented as a hooded skeletal figure brandishing a scythe in one hand, the world in the other.
Translating as “Holy Death,” the origins of Santa Muerte are unknown, but (as Everett states) she is believed to be a “syncretism of The Virgin Mary and the Mesoamerican goddess Mictecacihuatl” (Source). To her believers, she represents healing, peaceful death, and a safe transition into eternity. Worship mainly occurs privately in homes, where people construct shrines and host ceremonies. As Everett’s photos reveal, devotees also gather at temples to receive group blessings and share stories of healing.
Everett expertly and compassionately explores a community that is not clearly represented (or perhaps even understood) by a more general audience. The imagery absorbs the imagination, but even more compelling are the portraits of the individual devotees engaging in private practices; take Sysiphus, for example, who stands with his wife in blue robes in their temple on Melrose Avenue. Also featured is Orisaneke, a woman who can be seen preparing carnation bouquets for Misa Blanca. These intimate shots invoke the immersive history and tradition of Santa Meurte, as well as the value and beautiful diversity of alternative spiritual practices.