UPDATE September 13, 2019: There have been several features of Kieran’s work and the story of the Ethiopian church forests since the Hierotopia opened at the Ahmanson Gallery. Check out these articles from National Geographic, Nature, and (most recently) Christianity Today!
On September 15, 2018 the Ahmanson Gallery unveiled Hierotopia, a photographic exhibition by internationally renowned Scottish photographer Kieran Dodds, focusing on the sacred landscapes of Ethiopia. Employing a series of photographic techniques, Dodds offers us a bird’s eye view of the Christian communities of the northern countryside and introduces the viewer to a unique Ethiopian tradition of church construction within thickets of forested area amid an arid, harsh landscape. This sense of sanctuary within unforgiving environs has powerful symbolic undertones and underscores singularly Christian themes of salvation, redemption and the endurance of faith.
The viewer is invited to explore these dramatic images from the terrestrial to the ethereal, or, the worldly and the Godly, in two very distinct series of photographs. The first gallery comprises the people of these communities, their expressive faces, striking traditional dress, scenes from their daily lives, and places of worship.
The second gallery comprises images from high above these landscapes, capturing the dramatic topography of the country and the contrast between the life-giving centers of their communities – the churches, and the barren, sunbaked expanses of the surrounding countryside. This is an exhibition that explores faith, devotion, ecological stewardship, and the unique traditions endemic to Ethiopia.
Kieran Dodds (b. 1980) is a non-fiction photographer known for his research-driven photo stories and portraiture. His personal work considers the interplay of environment and culture, tracing global events through daily lives.
After reading Zoology at university, he trained at the Herald newspaper group in Glasgow becoming an independent photographer after picking up a string of accolades including a 1st prize World Press Photo award for his self-assigned story The Bats of Kasanka. A Winston Churchill Travel Fellowship allowed him to finish The Third Pole, documenting Tibetan culture in flux within the context of the landscape as pastoral nomads were resettled in the highlands of China.
At the time of Independence referendum he remained at home to consider the myths and realities of Scottish identity and their depiction in Western culture. Land of Scots sought out political and cultural narratives found with the country’s diverse physical environments. The portrait series Gingers originated at the same time using a visual cliche to sift through assumptions of national identity. Most recently, in the series Hierotopia he introduces a new perspective on the ecological crisis, charting the role of ancient ideas on the protection of rural landscapes in northern Ethiopia.
Dodds lives in Scotland with wife and twin daughters. His work is represented by the Panos Pictures, London