Born in Chicago, Illinois in 1941, James Nicholls lived all over the city and knew his life was heading in a spiritual direction at an early age. He studied Philosophy at Northern Illinois University, interrupting it to hitchhike Route 66, only to later finish at Southern Illinois University publishing poetry and studying literature. His earliest desire had been to study theology, so he pursued that after teaching high school and getting an M Div degree at Nashotah House Theological Seminary in Wisconsin.
It was not long after he was ordained that he realized there was great sorrow both in him and in others. So he studied the inner life as seen in Carl Jung and the psychologists of the day. Years later, after seeing many counseling clients, he wondered about his earlier compromise and returned to his initial vision, this time with a camera. While his subjects seemed to revolve around the religious search, it was not a literal one. Rather, it is the reclaiming of humanity and blessedness. What one writer called 'awakening to our original face'. Just as he did in Bosnia during its own war, James has traveled to Sudan, publishing his work in which he saw the world of the Sudanese torn to pieces from within by the leaders of the country.
Nicholls first traveled to Sudan in the spring of 1999 as the still photographer for the feature length documentary, "The Hidden Gift: War & Faith in Sudan." During his trips to Sudan, Nicholls lived among the Nuba and Dinka tribes to document the daily routines of a people besieged by hatred. “James Nicholls stands out among the contemporary photographers for whom documentary has not lost its force... His subjects have many faces but one recognizable spirit.” (John T. Spike –Director, International Biennale of Contemporary Art, Florence, Italy)
“My life has been devoted to photographing both the seen and unseen in the ordinary, the palpable yet invisible presence of the sacred in the everyday. I find this presence in a man rushing along the Seine, someone pouring clean water into a polluted river, the narrow opening of a doorway into another world. Whether I am photographing in the Holy Land, India, or the Sudan, light has been my guiding force—the light of the sun, the light of understanding, inner radiance, and connection, the moment of wonder in the midst of conflict, the peace in the midst of pain. I have been a student of poetry, philosophy, psychology, music and theology all my life, searching out the mystery of what binds us together as human beings.” ~ James Nicholls
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