In the room next door to Father Pavlos's restoration workshop, I discovered a treasure of very old photographs. The pictures were roughly the same size as those that figure on passports. They looked fairly normal to the naked eye, simply damaged and covered with microscopic cracks. I was able to scrutinize them more closely using the magnifying glass I take with me wherever I go, which allows me to open a wider eye onto the world and discover many an unsuspected, stunning universe. I looked at these small pictures through my magnifying glass, and I suddenly discovered that the faces of these monks were made of...dust! The slightest breath could have blown them to smithereens. --Xavier Zimbardo
During a rarely granted artistic residency on the holy Greek peninsula of Mount Athos, Xavier Zimbardo discovered in an abandoned monastery hundreds of deteriorating photographs of Russian monks who were in residence there prior to returning to their home country to fight against the Bolsheviks in 1917. Zimbardo photographed a selection of these images on site, never moving them from where he found them; the result is a visually arresting collection of seventy-five portraits that evoke the chasm between absence and presence, physicality and spirituality, sensuality and disintegration.
With a compelling introduction by world-renowned and Booker Prize-winning novelist Barry Unsworth, Monks of Dust: The Holy Men of Mount Athos is a sublime and moving work.