“When I was discerning what I should do with my life… I saw that none of it was enough, none of it would fulfill me, and I had to give myself more radically to God.” — Sister Lauren Franko, age 22
21-year-old Lauren Franko was in college, leading a rich and full life out in “the World,” as she calls it. She had a boyfriend and plans for marriage and children. But instead of this seemingly known path, she felt called to religious life and, after hearing God propose to her via a song on YouTube, has chosen to live her life as a cloistered nun. Now 24, she has spent the past three years leading a hidden life of prayer and ritual, shielding herself from the outside world in order to focus on the spiritual realm, and a higher calling of praying to save all souls.
Pale-skinned, rosy-cheeked, formerly donning a cascade of long red hair, Sister Lauren is young, beautiful, and vibrant. Although in her early 20’s, her child-like energy defies her age and exposes a curious juxtaposition of a girl finding herself as a woman, while at the same time finding herself as a nun.
Radical Love is a photographic narrative of the beginning of Sister Lauren’s journey within a small monastic community in New Jersey, USA. Documenting her passage through the first three years of religious life, the story is a window into her early love of God. It follows her betrothal to Him via an engagement ceremony where she takes a new holy name of her choosing (Sister Maria Teresa of the Sacred Heart), and 2-years later, at age 24, sees her progress through to the first stage of marrying God. The story also reveals her daily interactions living within a small community of nuns who are themselves in various stages of their own spiritual paths… the same path that lay ahead for her.
The Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey are a cloistered Roman Catholic monastic community. Their primary mission is to pray for the salvation of souls by leading a hidden life of prayer. The monastery of 21 Nuns range in age from 21 to 92 years. Some of the nuns have been in the monastery for as long as 62 years. At the time of starting this project, Sister Lauren, then the youngest nun, had been there for just three weeks.
TONI GREAVES is a documentary, editorial and portrait photographer with a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Australia, Toni has lived in the United Kingdom and the USA, and is widely traveled. She has an extensive background in design, having worked for fifteen years as an Art Director & Creative Director in both the USA and Europe.
Toni was named one of the “30 Emerging Photographers to Watch” by PDN magazine in 2009, along with being featured that year as an “Emerging Talent” by Reportage by Getty Images. In 2010 she received the Jurors Choice award at Review Santa Fe, and was voted one of PhotoLucida’s Critical Mass “Top 50 Photographers”, along with being one of their six Book Award Finalists. In 2011 her work was selected for Visa Pour l’Image, the prestigious International Festival of Photojournalism, held annually in Perpignan, France.
She has twice been featured in the Communication Arts Photography Annual, the American Photography Annual, and was the recipient of a fellowship by the Johnson & Johnson Foundation, among many other national and international awards. She has been featured in the British Journal of Photography, and has served as a visiting artist and guest lecturer at universities in London and the USA.
She has been published by TIME Magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Geo, Marie Claire, XXI, Le Point, Polka, Pélerin, The FADER, PDN, DAYS JAPAN, and Sports Illustrated, among others. Her work has been exhibited in France, Switzerland, London, New York, Los Angeles, China, and Cambodia, and is held in numerous private collections.
In her previous career in design, Toni created award-winning work for clients such as Apple, Microsoft, Nike, British Airways, T-Mobile, Expedia, Intel, and Weight Watchers, among many others. She holds a Masters degree in Visual Communication Design, and is a graduate of the Documentary Photography and Photojournalism program at the International Center of Photography, in New York City. She also holds degrees in both Graphic Design and Journalism.
Toni has a reputation for “seeing beyond” what is immediately apparent in a situation in order to tell a deeper and more personal visual story. Her personal projects typically explore themes of ritual, spirituality, community and healing, and how connection and identity are found and formed within these havens.
Toni is based in Portland, Oregon, USA. More of her work can be viewed here.