One of the first events I attended right after receiving my Holga (my Diana F+ Deluxe kit arrived two weeks earlier) was a seminar about building sweat lodges. This is the first story in what might be some kind of photographic diary.
To cut a long story short: I am into shamanism, and part of a training group learning shamanic practices and ceremonies. The sweat lodge is a very powerful one. You don’t have to practice shamanism to be part of one, I attended sweat lodges with people from many spiritual pathes and religions.
I took my Holga, the Diana F+ Deluxe kit and several rolls of Kodak Portra 160VC and Kodak Farbwelt 400 with me. The Farbwelt might be better known as Funtime to non german speakers.
And indeed, I was able to take some nice photos:
In case you’re wondering why the pictures above have all been taken with the Diana and the 35mm back: Most of the pictures on medium format film show some of my fellows, and I don’t have permission to publish these photos.
Anyway, since I was experimenting with multiple exposures, pinholes and all lenses available, I had many over exposed photos, leading to some spectacular results:
How a sweat lodge is build:
The basic structure consists of thick branches that are tied together in a dome shaped form. Thinner branches are added horizontally and prevent the blankets added afterwards from falling through.
After the sweat lodge is completed a pile of wood is set up. At the beginning of the ceremony 44 stones are placed on it before the fire is lit. The lodge will be sanctified by the women of the group, and the men sanctify the fire.
When the stones are glowing red the crowd enters the lodge, which is the start of four different rounds. At the beginning of each round some of the stones are placed in the center of the lodge. This is done by the fire keeper, a rather lonely (but beautiful) job outside the sweat lodge. During the ceremony the fire keeper makes sure that the stones are hot enough, feeding the fire with new wood.
Why? The sweat lodge is a place of psychic and spiritual cleaning and a place to pray, to whatever god, goddess or spiritual entity you belief in. But in pretty much the same way as you can’t take photos of what’s going on inside a sweat lodge you can’t explain it in words. And no two ceremonies are the same.