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The Things Not Seen Are Eternal

The Things Not Seen Are Eternal

by Herman Ellis Dyal

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Over a period of two years, Herman Ellis Dyal photographed the interior of the church in San Antonio, Texas which had been the centre of his family’s life since the 1940s. The resulting photographs show much of the building now unused and form his first monograph, The Things Not Seen Are Eternal.

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In 2021, while passing by Riverside Church in San Antonio, Dyal noticed an open door and after not setting foot inside the building for 50-years, entered. From the outside, the church appeared to be out of use. Greeted by the longtime pastor, Dyal learned that the large church, which had once been one of the largest and fastest growing in the city with a congregation of over 1,000 congregants, had dwindled to a present attendance of a dozen or so mostly elderly, long-time members. The congregation now gathers in one small area and many of the rooms and spaces which are no longer in use, without electricity and slowly deteriorating. Dyal began to return regularly—on Sundays to get to know and spend time with congregants—and on weekdays to document the many spaces no longer in use.

Dyal’s painterly photographs are devoid of people but heavy with the echoes of past human presence—chairs, toys, robes, furniture, artificial flowers and books—relics of an earlier time. Dyal’s background as an architect is evident in his portrayal of the buildings, their textures, colors, and details. Multiple doorways lead the viewer through the book and objects in the photographs often appear as sculptural inventions. A series of archival black and white photographs at the end of the book, some including Dyal himself as a child his family, show the church in its heyday, offering a counterpoint to its present state. The photographs can be read as a commentary on the increasing secularisation of society, and rapidly diminishing church attendance. Exploring the quiet and darkened spaces of the church became a reflective experience for Dyal, wrestling with the notion of the divine, belief and non-belief, the passage of time, family, and memory.

Published April 2023
245 x 310mm
128pp, 81 images colour and duotone
Hard cover with a screen print
ISBN 978–1–910401–87–3

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  • Herman Ellis Dyal received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Master of Architecture degree from Tulane University. A registered architect, he has held design positions with both Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) and Philip Johnson Architects (New York). He has served as a Visiting Artist at the University of Houston, a Visiting Critic at Rice University, and guest lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin, and other schools, universities, and conferences. His work has received numerous awards and has appeared in major design and architecture publications. In 2010, he was elected to The College of Fellows of The American Institute of Architects. In 2018, he was presented the Fellow Award by the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Austin. The Things Not Seen Are Eternal is his first photographic monograph.

  • 'Spending time there on weekdays, wandering and taking pictures in the darkened and empty church, I realise that I’m searching for something beyond photographs. Or perhaps I’m trying to somehow see through the photographs to something else. But I’m brushing up against a veil I can’t get past—cut off from the mystery. I long for a bush going up in flames. I long for my great cloud of witnesses, who may be in one of these rooms, if I just keep looking. I long for ‘the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.’ Reduced as it is to mere vestiges of faith and hope, I know this to be a place of transcendence and beauty—a refuge from the bitterness and cynicism and tribalism and corruption and noise and brokenness of the outside world.'

    - Herman Ellis Dyal