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About Neil Ralley
In his own words

I am a native Brit who for over 20 years pursued a career in Human Resources, initially domestic UK work and then progressively more international. In 1996 I had the good fortune to marry an American and one of us had to move in order to shorten a 3500 mile commute and it made sense for it to be me. Since moving over here I have been building up a small practice in executive search, doing a combination of US and overseas assignments.

My interest in stained glass and in photographing it also dates from the period around 1996. I had always noticed and greatly admired stained glass art from my early days in Carlisle which has a fine gothic cathedral with some original glass dating back to the 14th century. I had also been a keen photographer since getting my first camera, an old Brownie box camera, when I was about 9. However, it wasn't until the mid-90s that I put the two things together and discovered that stained glass can be extremely photogenic, albeit requiring more than a little luck and judgment in order to get good results.

Around that time I took some pictures of windows in the church of Lanercost Priory, near Carlisle, and achieved some very pleasing results. I did not realize it at the time but the windows which I had photographed were designed by two very famous designers - Edward Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelite painter, and Evie Hone, a great 20th century Irish artist.

Angel and sun detail Troutbeck jpeg.JPG (308977 bytes)

Detail "angel with sun"
from the Troutbeck Church  

In the ensuing years I took occasional shots of glass, some in Cambridge and others in the church in Scotland where my wife and I had married but it was really not until in 2000, on a vacation trip to the UK, that I began to study the subject in detail and it was at this time that I 'discovered' the work of William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites from an excellent book entitled "Stained Glass in England" by June Osborne. This work not only covers the history and techniques of glass-making but also includes a gazetteer detailing important works by county that enabled us to track down some further examples of Morris glass in Cumbria where we were staying. At that time I undertook fairly comprehensive shoots of St Martin's church in Brampton, a magnificent example of Pre-Raphaelite work which is the only church ever designed by Philip Webb, the architect, who was part of the Morris 'school', and also Jesus Church at Troutbeck. Both of these resulted in good work.

Early in 2001 I did a shoot of the windows at the Church of The Incarnation in NYC. What drew me there was that I had discovered that there were 2 Morris windows but when I was able to see the church it was clear to me that the Morris glass was not (in my view) their finest and they were hugely overshadowed by the magnificent examples of Tiffany glass as well as other fine work by La Farge and Henry Holiday. Some of those windows proved especially tricky to shoot because they have no natural light and are lit by undiffused spots or floods resulting in 'hot spots' which are a challenge. However, despite this I think that I was able to produce some good work much to the surprise of the Pastor who had seen others try and fail before me.

Around mid-year I was able to take a few pictures in St Paul's church in Richmond which also is home to some fine Tiffany glass and then in early November I was able to pay another visit to some Cumbrian churches to almost fulfill my goal of having good coverage of all the 19thC Morris glass there. The year was rounded off late in November by a trip to Saugerties, NY and Hudson Falls, NY to take the shots which now appear at my website.

In the case of Saugerties I was interested in seeing the window because it is the earliest recorded commission of a Morris window here in the US. In the case of Hudson Falls I was responding to an earlier enquiry from them in the course of their trying to prove that their windows are by Tiffany for grant purposes.

I have some very strong feelings about stained glass. Firstly it is relatively inaccessible to all but a few. In the UK this is because much work, for example the churches in Cumbria, is so 'off the beaten track' and so (relatively) unpublicized that even when visitors are in the vicinity they may not know of it's existence and when one looks in global terms how many New Yorkers (for example) will get the opportunity to see a little church in Brampton, a small market town which can barely be found on a map?

However, at least in the UK most of these small churches are open more or less all day and every day whereas here in the US most are open only for strictly limited times and in many cases only on Sundays except by special appointment. This is quite limiting in that it simply is not possible to go 'walkabouts' and look in churches on the spur of the moment.

Lastly I honestly believe that, given the right equipment and film, I can produce pictures which include details which simply cannot be fully appreciated by the naked eye when one is viewing a window in situ. This is not rocket science and there are many many examples of similar work by other photographers. I do not claim to have a unique skill or talent but I do believe that my work is good and I would like to do more.

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The Rev. Charles P. Henderson is a Presbyterian minister and Executive Director of
  CrossCurrents.
He is the author of God and Science (John Knox Press, 1986).  
A revised and expanded version of the book is appearing here.
God and Science (Hypertext Edition, 2005).
He is also editor of a new book, featuring articles by world class scientists and theologians, and illustrating the leading views on the relationship between science and religion:
Faith, Science and the Future (CrossCurrents Press, 2007).

Charles also tracks the boundry between the virtual and the real at his blog: Next World Design, focusing on the mediation of art, science and spirituality in the metaverse.  

For more information about Charles Henderson.