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Unknown Photographer, Gordon Parks with Benedictine monks, Atchison, Kansas, 1955

     On the day after Christmas 1955, Life published a special double issue on Christianity in the United States and around the world. For his contribution to the issue, Parks revisited his native Kansas to report on a Benedictine monastery located near Atchison, overlooking the Missouri River. In a number of high-contrast photographs, filled with deep shadows and small bursts of light, Parks emphasized the solemnity of the order and the quiet devotion of the 172 monks who lived in this unexpected locale.