OREM- Scott Jarvie was working as successful wedding, portrait, and travel photographer when the inspiration came to use his talent to do something more meaningful. After a miraculous fund-raising campaign, a new project was born. Jarvie packed up his Airstream and started a journey to photograph every completed temple in the U.S. The result is American Temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a beautiful, 280-page book highlighting stories, experiences, facts, and of course photographs of every American temple. In the midst of feverishly signing books and getting them ready to ship out around the world, I had a chance to sit down with Scott and ask him some questions about this incredible project.
What inspired the temple project?
Well the history behind my interest in temple photography is, well, obviously I am an active LDS individual and I have traveled to photograph a lot of weddings in different places around the country for a lot of LDS temple so I’m there at the temples and I’m taking pictures and they are beautiful and I have a strong connection to them. So, I wanted to keep taking pictures and I believe that that increased when I went on a couple of long road trips. And I said, “Well what can I do while driving across the country”. So I started to go to temples. And then I was here in Utah and I spent a whole week photographing temples every morning. Eventually one of them became very popular. Then last year in March I had a moment when I was driving around taking pictures of Southern Utah and having this wonderful time to myself. And one of those days I had a moment when I was thinking, “Okay what’s next in my life? I’m happy, I’m doing good but I need to keep pushing myself to do something bigger and better that would push me as an individual and push my photography and have maybe more impact in the world”. So I was praying about it. I had a list: A, B, C—these really good things, these projects I wanted to do and all of the sudden I kind of had this idea, option D that would not leave my mind. And I just kept thinking about it and thinking about it and had a really good feeling about it and that was to make a temple book. And within a month it had become a much bigger project to photograph ALL religious buildings around the country
Tell us about the process to photograph these temples.
My process for taking temple pictures is that I show up to the location, the temple, usually an hour or 2 before sunset because I usually walk around the building, get an idea of all the locations. I’m just trying here, there everywhere. I know how to photograph buildings pretty well because I’ve done thousands of buildings, but I still do that lap around. Then I come back and by that time it’s getting closer to sunset, so I’ll get my tripod because for me, my pictures are usually about when the lights on the temple come on. That’s kind of a signature mark on my temples. The lights are on, the sky is really interesting. I will usually do that same circle around the temple and when the sky starts to light up really beautifully you’ll see me running. And then I’ll get some sleep and I’ll do it again at like 5:30 the next morning. I’ll do the same thing but in the morning it’s a little bit different because you start dark. So having had the opportunity the day before gave me that chance. And sometimes I’ve been to the temple quite often, to that particular temple. So I know the locations that I typically go to and then I try to just expand it and try a few different things. But the lighting does determine where I’m going to be at. Sometimes if the light is different, I see things totally differently.
What is your favorite temple to photograph?
My favorite temple that I’ve ever photographed is, well I’m going to give you two answers. One is Switzerland. I think purely for the fact that, hey, I was in Switzerland. And it’s beautiful and it has great grounds and I had a couple of fun experiences with the neighbors that were walking around. But my favorite temple to photograph in general is still the Salt Lake Temple. There is just always a new way for me to photograph it. And I’ve done, probably over 5 dozen weddings there. I still like to take wedding pictures at the Salt Lake Temple, but also of the temple as well. There are just so many different things: reflecting pond, fountains, different angles from up on buildings, city scape versions of it. It’s just a lot of fun. And next to that, I would probably say DC because it’s one of those big buildings and there are trees around it and it has a reflecting pond as well.
Tell us one of your favorite experiences while photographing temples.
One of my favorite stories about temples was when I was in Palmyra and someone there was telling me about the Palmyra temple. I believe it was President Hinckley had requested that this was the only temple that you could see into the temple because he requested the ability to see out over into the sacred grove from the temple. And that was a big part of it. I thought that was pretty interesting. I love when the temples add a connection to the location that they are in. Certain temples, like Albuquerque that you say “Oh that totally fits Albuquerque” or the Orlando temple grounds and Ft. Lauderdale. You’re like, “ I feel like I’m in Florida while I’m here”. The grounds are very much like that. And I know there are a lot of details inside that connect more often, but I like seeing them outside because I can photograph the outsides.
Why are temples so important to you?
Temples are important to me because the things you do inside are important for other people that have passed on and it’s a great act of service. And I see the temples also as a symbol. In our religion we have pictures of Christ and things like “CTR” that remind of us gospel principles. And the temple is a huge symbol for us—we do amazing things inside. But we use it to represent who we are as a people. We are a temple going people and you can put these pictures up on the walls and look at them and say, “This is what I strive for, this is who I am, what I’m all about”. As a side note, an interesting perspective, coming from photographing religious buildings of hundreds of different religions, that we have a very unique connection to this building in comparison to other religions because we may be the only religion where we put the pictures up on the walls because they are so symbolic of covenants that we make and who we want to be.
What do you say to aspiring photographers that want advice?
I meet a lot of people who are interested in getting into photography and when I talk to them and they are asking the question, “What should I do?” I wholeheartedly encourage [them] to get better at photography regardless of if they want to be a photographer. I think that should be the first approach, get better at photography because you can document your life, your friends, your adventures, remembrances. It’s a supplement to your journal or your remembrances to pass down. These pictures are important and I think they add to the experience when the pictures are esthetically more pleasing. So I encourage everyone to learn photography. However, because so many people are learning photography, there are a lot of really good photographers out there. So if you are asking the question to those that are interested in making photography more than something personal, being really good at photography is no longer the mountain you are looking to climb, like “I have made it, I am an amazing photographer, now everyone flock to me”. It’s now a prerequisite. Being a really good photographer is now the starting point to being a “photographer”. Now that you are a good photographer you can start thinking about making money. I encourage people to aim for that because at the worst, they are going to have a great set of skills to use in any other aspect of their life. In a lot of business, even if it’s not their main calling, photography will still help them. Now it’s about what you do with your pictures, not the actual pictures you take. So for me, going and photographing 70 temples and doing an interesting project, to do a book, to inspire people, to add stories to those pictures are the things that the world is kind of looking at now with the influx of photographers.
Tell us about the book.
The book, as I mentioned, started back in March and then I did a kickstarter to get about ⅔ of the funds that needed and it kind of kick-started off. And there were several hundred people that backed it and they get books because of it. And now I’m selling the books on my website or on LDSBookstore.com and plenty of other places. But it’s 280 pages and it has over 34 different authors that have written short, inspiring stories or personal connections to the temple together with interesting facts about the buildings and church news articles to supplement some of the other buildings. It’s 9×12, it’s a hefty, significant book and I’m really excited that it was printed so well.
A Little About Scott
Scott Jarvie studied languages at BYU, and while traveling in Europe he discovered his love for photography. He has spend the last decade and tens of thousands of hours fervently honing his craft. Scott is a full-time photographer, earning a living primarily as a wedding photographer, while still getting plenty of opportunities to travel the world. You can see more pictures from the American Temples project, the Faith in America project, and the rest of Scott’s photography at jarviedigital.com.
What is your current calling? Ward-hopper! Being on the road I get to visit a different ward every week!
Who is your most admired church leader? Neil A. Maxwell
Who is your favorite scripture character? Mahonri Moriancumer (aka The Brother of Jared)