Freemasonry is the largest and oldest fraternity, and is still shrouded in secrecy and sprinkled with conspiracy theories today. Gaining access to this secret society has proved notoriously difficult and when photographer Jamie Kripke started his project about Freemasonry dwellings, he came up against many barriers. “I met with a few of the members to explain my project and showed them a few of my previous pictures,” he explains. “When they saw that I wasn’t out to do a massive exposé, they let me wander around with my camera and shoot. After that first shoot, they were nice enough to write a letter of recommendation that helped me get in with a bunch of other lodges.”
Lodges are the communal buildings Freemasonry members use to convene with the rest of the Masonic community. It was the Scottish Rite Temple in Santa Fe that first caught Jamie’s attention when he started the project back in 2006. “I shot a picture there of a stairwell where the quality of light was unlike anything I’d ever seen. That image stayed with me and is what initially kept me coming back, looking for more of that amazing light. After a while, I got interested in the culture, and making images that speak to it.”
Despite the dwindling membership, there are still around six million Freemasons all over the world. The photographer focused on capturing the lodges in California, New Mexico, Wyoming and Colorado where he’s based. Despite the different locations there’s a uniformity between all of Jamie’s images and they begin to blend into one archaic space where dingy doorways and curtain-clad assembly rooms are the norm.
There are few portraits of actual members in Jamie’s project and it’s clear his interest lies in the architecture of the old buildings and their contents. The contrast between objects is fascinating as collections of masonic hats and dusty medals sit alongside stacks of foldable chairs and plastic coffee pots that show just as much wear and tear. “A lot of people know that Masonic culture is shrouded in mystery, so they approach it with some preconceptions.” Jamie explains. “I like being able to show people the inside of these spaces, and see how it matches up with their pre-existing ideas of what’s happening behind closed doors.”
The colours throughout the series are stunning and rich, seeped in olive tones that ricochet off mahogany furniture and faded wallpaper. “I shot almost everything with a camera and tripod, using available light. The secretive nature surrounding the society has resulted in buildings with small windows, which makes for beautiful, subdued lighting. In a way, the quality of the light in the photos tells us some of their story.”
About the Author
Rebecca became staff writer at It’s Nice That in March 2016 before leaving the company at the end of 2017. Before joining the company full time she worked with us on a freelance basis many times, as well as stints at Macmillan Publishers, D&AD, Dazed and frieze.