Marc Aristotle de Asis is one of four Jesuits who will have their photography on display at Regis College in Toronto for the Contact festival. Photo by Michael Swan

Jesuits ready for Contact

  • May 2, 2012

TORONTO - Jesuits are taught to see God in all things. This makes Jesuit photography a little more intense than family snapshots.

This year four Canadian Jesuits will show their photographs as part of the 17th annual Contact festival. With more than 1,000 venues spread around Toronto and as many as 1.8 million sets of eyeballs taking in the work of an international lineup of photographers through the month of May, Contact is the largest photography event in the world.

Predictably, the Jesuit show at Regis College on the campus of the University of Toronto is called “In All Things.” It runs May 10 to 26, with an opening night reception May 10.

Second-year theologian Marc Aristotle de Asis loves the process of discovery inherent in photography. The Contact show will be the first time the 29-year-old Jesuit will see his photographs hung for a gallery crowd.

“I let myself be amazed by what the camera captures,” said de Asis of the fireworks photos he will show.

His photos will hang along with nature and abstract photography by Fr. Gilles Mongeau, Trevor Scott and Fr. Teo Ugaban.

De Asis has been playing around with cameras since he was very young. Growing up in the Philippines, de Asis’s father had a darkroom. Though he claims to have been a haphazard photographer and printmaker in those days, he loved seeing what would come out of the trays of chemicals.

Photography wasn’t part of his spiritual life until his novice master, Fr. Philip Shano, urged him to channel some of his energy into photography. In the context of the initial two years of Jesuit life photography took on new dimensions.

“It’s all contemplation,” he said. “It’s a way to enter into the whole experience.”

To capture a moment requires the kind of attentiveness that is at the very heart of Ignatian spirituality, according to de Asis.

“At first you just take random photos, but that gets boring,” said de Asis.

Though de Asis’s photos for this show are semi-abstract compositions that result from long exposures during fireworks displays, his favourite subjects are people. He thinks of portraiture in terms of St. Ignatius’ advice to listen for the best and most positive side of every argument and every person.

“You give the best interpretation to what people say. This (portraits) is the best interpretation of how they appear,” he said.

Standing outside at night with a camera on a tripod, de Asis delights in photographing “something I can’t see with my naked eye.” He uses a long exposure and allows the fireworks to work on the night sky with colour and light.

“You can’t see it when you open the shutter. You’re letting the fireworks paint something for you. You can’t predict what you get,” he said.

Regis is at Wellesley and Queen’s Park Circle. The show can be seen Thursdays and Fridays 5-9 p.m., Saturdays 12 noon to 5 p.m.

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