For the past six years, I’ve photographed a group of girls between the ages of ten and twenty involved in a secret society known as Job’s Daughters. The girls are the direct blood relatives of Master Masons, a prerequisite to be part of this Masonic Youth organization. The group takes its name from the Book of Job, 42nd chapter, 15th verse: “And in all the land were no women found so fair as the Daughters of Job.”
My focus on this group comes from my own history—I was a member of it in the early 1990s. What I remember most from my experience is its intensity, an immersion into a social structure entailing a level of responsibility not usually required of young adults in today’s society. For this project, my interest is in the type of girl who finds comfort in ritual and its ability to allow her to disassociate from one world and become part of something much bigger than she is. I’m interested in meeting, documenting, and coming to know the current world of girls who enter and stay in this order. I approach these girls from the vantage point of an insider. With that perspective, I’m also interested in their sites of ceremony, built around the same principles of their Masonic family. The Freemasons’ focus on meticulous execution and order is manifest in sacred geometry— providing these spaces with what ultimately gives strength to the ties that bind the people in these organizations.
Much like a religious sanctuary, Masonic spaces, or Bethels, can lend a sense of discovery, meditation, and comfort. Each object within each room has a personality developed by the people who meet there. Mirroring the portraits of the girls, I look to render the character of each space, allowing nuance to surface from what on the surface might appear as a rigid structure.
My focus on this project is driven by time, access, and geography. Rapidly on the demise, Job’s Daughters is its final stages. At an 8% annual rate of decline, current members might represent the last generation to participate in this cultural tradition. Since moving back to Minnesota my desire has been to document the origins of Jobs Daughters, which are concentrated in the Midwest.
Through generous grants, awards and self funding I am currently traveling to all the remaining bethels in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Nebraska and document the girls, spaces, and unique objects particular to the history of each individual chapter. Additionally, I am in the process of adding to the 40+ hours of audio interviews and documented rituals into a cohesive description of things that, to date, have only been experienced by members of the Masonic family. My ultimate goal with this project is to present all the imagery, audio and collected objects in a gallery installation and book that allows me to combine their archives and my project to make a living document, both artistic and historic— preserving the history of a uniquely American institution and allowing the outside world a rare window of access to this world.