Orisha: The Lost Saints is a photo series exploring the disappearing Santeria religion from the Florida Key through large format portraits of locals recast as the saints they best represent. Large scale images shed a light in the fading tradition.
I grew up in Key West on the edge of the Santeria culture. Santeria emerged from disenfranchised people hiding their beliefs in plain sight, synchronizing African Gods with Catholic Saints to avoid persecution. This is both powerful and heartbreaking in equal measure as I have watched Key West’s own beliefs become absorbed, sanitized and homogenized for safe consumption.
At one time Santeria was the dominant religion of the Caribbean and I find this aspect, of a native population having to hide their beliefs in plain sight, significant in this modern age of mass tourism and gentrification. Santeria has faded into the forgotten corners in many cultures but, in my youth, it was just as important as any mainstream religion.
Each Saint will be photographically recreated using local worshippers whose stories and life experiences most closely resemble each Saint’s creed. The goal is to capture the defiance and pride of a tradition fighting for survival in the face of gentrification.