Lenny admits to me that he was a bit emotional when he looked at the final proof of his new book of collected photographs, Healing Hands, which is due out in a couple weeks. This morning as I look at the proof, I too am a bit emotional. The stories he’s captured are all together an overwhelming dedication to the communal power of our human spirit.
Communal. In my younger days, I worked for an international student ministry. We hosted fellowship dinners where student families took turns sharing their native foods, songs, prayers and games with each other. Children ran wild while parents up cleaned after meals. We shared families, learned each others’ languages, and helped with homesickness. Healing Hands reminds me of this time in my life. It folds together the calluses of real life, fellowship and community, spirit and family between the covers of a book, and reminds you of the pure sweetness of people.
The images in the book begin with Lenny’s 1995 trip to Senegal, and many of these photographs I’ve seen before. His healing hands photographs from that period are unmistakable Lenny. They have come to be his signature around Taos, where his Living Light Gallery lights up Kit Carson Road. But having seen the images individually does not prepare you for the experience of hands collectively. Together, the hands are a richer and deeper Lenny Foster, whose appreciation for people’s gifts glows brighter as the book unfolds.
While I was at the Living Light Gallery, people streamed in with their cameras to ask him questions, seek advice, and hear stories. At one point, Lenny and I were sitting on the boardwalk sipping our coffee and a man hollered to Lenny as he walked by, “Hey man, we love your work. We spent three hours in [the gallery] yesterday.” And off down the road he went, camera over his shoulder.
Lenny says that this book has grown from people, and one hour in his gallery certainly illuminates this point. For years, people have come into his gallery and said “Lenny, you should do a book.” The Living Light Gallery has been open now for fifteen years, during which time he started writing prose to accompany many of his photographs. Healing Hands includes his words, and he’s happy with the outcome — the weaving of photographs and prose. This evolution has been healing, and he believes it has lead to the destiny forseen for him by the healer Fatou Seck, whose photograph is on the cover.
Ma’am Seck, whom he first met in Sengal, came to the United States where she and Lenny met for a second time. He photographed her, and she granted him a divination reading. Lenny writes that “Ma’am Seck foretold the many blessings that would result from both my inner work and my chosen work as a photographer.” He later realized that she foretold the “Healing Hands” project. The fortune of this blessing is shared with all of us as we feast on the collection of hands in this book.
We shape the world with our hands. Through music, cooking, painting, writing, photography, praying and loving. Lenny lays this out on a platter for us to behold, cross-spiritually and culturally, and from birth to centenarian. There are no faces in the book. Only hands, and the things we hold dear. And yet, as you flip through the photographs each one is a moment of clarity that you relate to very intimately.
As part of one photograph, Lenny remembers: “it was my good fortune that this man selected me to reveal these power objects to, which he held with such reverence and pride.” I would say that it is our good fortune to have Lenny Foster right here in Taos. It is also our good fortune that he has collected such small and simply profound manifestations of purity to share with us.
Many hands make light work: Taos talent helped with the creation of Healing Hands, which Lenny self-published. Kelly Pasholk of Wink Visual Designs did the layout and design, and Deanna Rico was the copy editor.