The New Yorker published Lawrence Wright’s long awaited article on Scientology, written through the lens of its high-profile Hollywood defector, Paul Haggis, a little over a week ago. However, if you are like me, you only recently finished reading all 25,000 words. The article has a remarkable ensemble cast of characters (Paul Haggis, Tom Cruise, Will Smith, John Travolta, Anne Archer, Marlon Brando, the FBI, Sea Orgs, and Xenu the former dictator of the “Galactic Confederacy”), but none were more interesting to me than the founder of the Church of Scientology himself, L. Ron Hubbard.
That is why I was so delighted to be introduced to Ron, The Photographer: Writing with Light (TR140 .H83 1999), a gift to the ICP Library from the Scientology Center. The best-selling author and cult leader was—as I only just discovered— also a photographer for sixty years, almost until the day he died, or as David Miscavige put it, before he “discarded the body he had used in this lifetime…hip, hip hooray!”
The book, published by The Church of Scientology, is fashioned to look like it might be an issue of a popular photography magazine devoted wholly to Hubbard. In addition to the many reproductions of Hubbard’s work and images from his massive camera collection, the publication contains essays*, anecdotes, and notes on Hubbard’s photography as well as an essay on photography by Hubbard himself, titled, “Is It Art?”
*In many of these essays, writers claim Hubbard coined the term ‘writing with light’!