New York Times photographer James Estrin has captured some powerful photos in his many assignments. There was his profoundly sorrowful image of dust swirling around the Ground Zero memorial on the first anniversary of 9/11. There was his beautifully quiet image of an elderly woman praying before eating dinner (in front of her television set) after receiving her Meals on Wheels delivery. The was the contemplative image of a boy playing chess outside in the Bronx. And there are countless others.
But whether he's photographing something as heavy as a solemn moment in time or as simple as an everyday habit, Estrin says there's a commonality beneath each of these pictures: spiritual experience.
"I was always interested in spiritual experience," he says in the above video from OWN's "Super Soul Sunday." "I was interested in the concept that there was something beyond what just immediately met my eyes.
"I believe that spiritual experience can happen in many different settings," Estrin says. "It can happen in churches and synagogues and mosques, but I think it can also happen in concert halls. I think it can happen on top of mountains."
Regardless of where they happen, these spiritual experiences offer a revealing look into some of life's most intimate instants, often unseen at first glance. It's Estrin's intention to draw this out.
"What I'm trying to do in my photographs is capture these profound moments, these experiences that are essentially internal -- they're invisible. When I'm photographing, my goal is to be completely present. In the moment," Estrin says.
Through his photography, Estrin has also gained a valuable piece of wisdom about life. "What I know for sure is that life has meaning. I think that it's up to us to find the meaning within each of our lives," he says. "Spiritual experience helps us do that. It helps informs us on how to live. It shapes us. It changes the way we encounter the world.
"We have to try to do good," Estrin says. "I think that any single act that you do, potentially, could change the world."
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