September 12, 2009 CNN
LEMON: The nation paused to remember 9/11 eight years after the tragedy. No question that day changed many of us, including photographer Michael Belk. His images, well, they have appeared in publications including "Vogue", "Elle", "Vanity Fair" and "GQ."
But after the Twin Towers came down, he began to see things just a little bit differently. Belk is releasing "Journeys with the Messiah." It is a compelling and controversial collection of photographs depicting 1st century Jesus in 20th and 21th century dilemmas and scenarios.
Michael joins us now.
How did 9/11 impact you and how it did make you want to refocus your talent from fashion photography to doing something like this?
MICHAEL BELK, PHOTOGRAPHER, "JOURNEYS WITH THE MESSIAH": You know, the connection between 9/11 and 2001 and 9/11 now is that, you know, our country was attacked by terrorists. They physically attacked buildings. But, you know, in 2008, we became -- we got in this financial attack, you know, it kind of calls by ourselves.
But back at 2001, you know, I just -- I watched people in New York searching for something different, something outside of ourselves and now in this economic crisis, I see the same thing all over again.
LEMON: You know, when you see someone who, you know, appears to be Jesus in the photographs, and you see them in, you know, with the cars and hanging with modern-day people, are you worried at all about any sort of criticism because you can't depict Jesus this way?
BELK: I'm not worried about it. I don't believe for a second that I'm being sacrilegious. We thought about that a lot, and actually we prayed over that and said let's not do anything sacrilegious.
But what we're trying to do is show that Jesus' messages from 2,000 years ago are very relevant today. And we wanted to put him in scenarios that most people could relate to.
LEMON: And all of your 30 years plus -- I mean, it's a personal question and you don't have to answer it. Were you close to God? Did you have -- were you a Christian? Did you believe in God? Or was this something new that just happened for you after 9/11?
BELK: Well, I grew up in the church, but it didn't mean anything. I didn't learn anything. I didn't know anything. I was really in my early 40s when I just burned out from traveling in the fashion industry and so forth that I started looking, you know, for something deeper and that's when my Christian faith came back.
But this time, you know, I really learned about Jesus Christ, and I studied him deeply and found that -- found him to be absolutely fascinating.
LEMON: So you were saved, as they say -- people who -- Christians say you were saved.
LEMON: How do you -- how do people in the fashion industry, how have they reacted to these photographs? Or have you gotten positive feedback as well?
BELK: Well, you know, we just launched the project this week. So I really haven't been around those people, you know, in the last year while I've been working on the project. I'll be very interested to see how they react to it.
I know the people that I've worked with for many years who know me and knew that I was going to go do this project eventually, I think they'll react very positively to it.
LEMON: They're really, really unique and just very -- just -- I think they're beautiful pictures. So would you go back? Would you take a fashion job if someone offered it to you?
BELK: Yes, absolutely, if it's a good one. I love to shoot fashion.
LEMON: Thank you, Mr. Belk.
BELK: Thank you.
LEMON: All the best success for you -- the best for you and much success, OK?
BELK: I appreciate it. Thanks for having me on.
LEMON: You're welcome.