Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Multimedia: Power Places Volume 51 Number 4, July/August 1998
by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak

[image] Nuns exiting shrine in Sarnath, just north of Varanasi, India (Chris Rainier) [LARGER IMAGE]

One of the abiding fascinations of archaeology is its ability to inspire fantasy. In the presence of an ancient object or building, we are drawn to speculate about its maker or builder. From the time of its invention, photography has been credited with a unique ability to capture evocative details. In the introduction to his book of photographic essays, Keepers of the Spirit (Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words Publishing Co., 1993), Chris Rainier makes an even more expansive claim: "I hope to show the past in the present, and become part of the process of preserving life for the future." He approaches the places he photographs with a keen appreciation of the aura that suffuses their physical, visual presence, and he is keenly aware of the irony involved in crafting beautiful pictures that make such fragile sites appear both appealing and accessible. While admitting that it is presumptuous to think that one person could save the monuments, Rainier intends his pictures to "evoke the intangible spirit" of these extraordinary structures and thereby, perhaps, help stimulate public interest in their preservation. Despite his dedication, he is not overly optimistic. "Virtual reality can't come soon enough," he says, and then adds regretfully, "We're well on the way to loving these places to death." Rainier's new book is Where Masks Still Dance: New Guinea (New York: Bullfinch, 1996).

Click here for Chris Rainier books.

Andrew Szegedy-Maszak is a contributing editor to ARCHAEOLOGY.

© 1998 by the Archaeological Institute of America