Karen Garret de Luna


Almost every day I wear a plastic brown scapular that my Tita Mary gave me years ago. Although it is probably illegal according to the Catholic canon, whenever the string breaks, I just do surgery on the scapular and replace the string. This is how I learned that my scapular actually has two pieces of cloth inside each of the brown pieces of plastic. I bury the knot inside the fold of one of the bits of cloth, hide it back inside the plastic and like magic, my scapular is whole again.

I don't know what attracted me to the scapular in the first place. I was baptised in the Catholic Church but received no other sacraments, much to the chagrin of my Ninang (Tagalog for Godmother). The things that a scapular can purportedly do fascinate me. I am supposed to be guaranteed entrance to heaven if it is touching my skin when I die, like a sacred "get out of jail free" card. It is also supposed to protect me from Satan on the front and the back (since it has two sides), but I always wondered what would happen if the Devil approached from the side or from above or below instead.

The idea for the "Articles of Faith" percolated in my head for years before I could take steps realize the vision. It is much different from my previous photographic work and has opened many doors for me. It took a long time to settle on the proper presentation and gather the necessary equipment (and expertise) to be able to start the project. I am grateful for all of the help I've gotten along the way.

Some of the portraits in this book are of friends and family, but many participants were strangers to me. I posted ads online and rented a studio space in Tribeca. I feel incredibly lucky that so many people were inspired to share a very personal part of their life stories with me.

The text that accompanies each portrait is an excerpt from the answers to these three questions:

• What kind of amulet/talisman do you wear?
• How does it protect you or act as a spiritual (or other) reminder?
• How does your amulet/talisman represent your beliefs?

I am curious about what people believe and why. What we wear next to our skin, somewhere between our hearts and throats, is both intimate and important. When I am not wearing my scapular, I am inevitably wearing some other necklace or bracelet or charm that holds special meaning for me. By asking participants to write about their ritualized acts of adornment, I seek to externalize something personal and internal, something that usually goes untranslated, remaining mute but for the secret language of objects. It is my hope that by sharing our beliefs with a wider circle of humanity we can foster a more enlightened and compassionate society.

Personally there are many reasons I choose to wear a scapular or string of turquoise beads or Medal of St. Christopher on any given occasion. I derive a certain sense of safety from these objects that are imbued (in my personal cosmology) with powers of protection, connection, communication and identification. The challenges of my day will dictate if I opt for a secondary necklace or alternative to my scapular. I am comforted by the reminder of my family, my culture and my heritage the scapular provides. I like that my necklaces act as a physical reminder of what is inherently intangible, like tiny beacons of faith writ large.

The generosity and honesty of the people whose portraits grace these pages is amazing. Thank you.