Timothy Abler, "A Salvatorian Monastery"

Our current exhibit features work by Milwaukee photographer Timothy Abler. Abler has this to say about his collection A Salvatorian Monastery

"During the summer of 1978 I began making photographic portraits of people in a place familiar to me all my life: The Salvatorian priests, brothers and sisters in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin. I grew up in this village of 693 people. The Salvatorian Seminary and St. Mary’s Convent were my backyard. For a time, the Society was part of my family – my two older brothers attended the seminary during the 1950’s. I can remember, at age six, visiting them and being led through long corridors which opened onto what seemed to me elaborately decorated rooms. There I was introduced to tall men in black robes who shook my hand firmly. One man had a camera, (a Speed Graflex 4x5 film camera) he said his name was Fr. Leo and he was going to take a picture of our family. I remember it clearly, in part, from studying the photograph he took of us on that day, in that room.

The seminary closed in 1969, having transformed itself into a Salvatorian-sponsored high school – JFK Prep. So, in the early seventies I once again found myself in the same corridors and rooms my brothers had led me through years earlier. It was then I picked up a camera. Needless to say, my early photographs reflected the limited experience of a high school photographer. I felt I dare not venture to take pictures of the religious community living on campus.

I returned somewhat wiser in 1978. Now as part of a college Documentary Thesis, my express purpose was to photograph the monastery and the religious men and women whose dedicated service to religious life made up this Salvatorian society. My intention was to make images which would preserve a sense of this unique place, the people and the presence of a community. I was eager to experience as an adult a place which held such powerful almost mystical, childhood memories.

What you see here today are photographs made almost 40 years ago. For me the journey down those “long corridors” I began so many years ago has continued as a documentary photographer and teacher at Cardinal Stritch University here in Milwaukee since 1980. As you might imagine my parents were thrilled that I was teaching at an institution sponsored by the Sisters of St Francis of Assisi."