Thinking inside the box

Spirituality explored in exhibit

The assignment was a challenge for Derek Ishmael. He was to come up with an object or objects that fit in a 6-by-6-by-4-inch box and represent his spirituality.

The Lawrence resident settled on marbles and had his portrait taken with the marbles suspended in space.

“I was thinking about how the spirit is always in a state of flux,” Ishmael says. “Spirituality is always changing. It exists outside constraints, and it exists everywhere – all around.”

That was the assignment given to 30 people three months ago by Scott Indermaur, a Lawrence commercial photographer whose subjects usually are factories or CEOs.

In a series he calls “Revealed,” Indermaur attempts to capture his subjects’ inner essence, as explained by their objects and a brief spirituality statement.

Some of the photos are on display through Sept. 16 at Unity Church, 900 Madeline Lane, where Indermaur is a member. They’re also available online at

He was impressed by the variety of objects brought to the shoot, including flowers, sand, feathers, a lamp, a toy, spools of thread and a cat.

“It went beyond spirituality,” says Indermaur, 37. “They dug deeper and showed their true essence, who they really are. The whole project was a lot more powerful than I ever thought it would be.”

Indermaur’s subjects were a mix of acquaintances and people he didn’t know.

One of the subjects was Jon Cross, Lawrence, who chose to fill his box with three objects:

¢ A plaque of the state of Texas, because he grew up there and has sentimental attachments to it.

¢ Turkey and pheasant feathers, to represent his connection to nature.

¢ A statue of Buddha, because he’s been to Buddhist meditation retreats that “got me really grounded and slowed me down.”

“I’m so impressed with everybody else’s” portraits, Cross says. “I’m mainly looking at people’s faces. You get that sense of seriousness that everybody obviously took for the project.”

Indermaur says the project’s focus ended up being different from what he expected.

“I thought the photos would be about the box,” he says. “But it was more about the facial expressions and emotions shown on the faces.”

See the show

Twelve of the photos from Scott Indermaur’s “Revealed” photo project will be on display at the Unity Art Gallery at Unity Church of Lawrence, 900 Madeline Lane.
The show continues through Sept. 16. The gallery is open from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-noon on Sunday.
All of the photos can be viewed at

For each portrait, subjects had their hair and makeup done. Then, Indermaur asked them to focus on what the objects in the box meant to them, and he shot preliminary photographs of the facial expressions.

After looking at the digital photos with the subject, they decided on a particular facial expression to hone in on and then took more photographs.

“We shot over three days,” he says. “That whole weekend was an emotional roller-coaster. I was amazed what people shared with me.”

Ishmael, the marble man, agreed that it was a spiritual experience.

“It put me in a space where I was thinking about it, or I saw there were deeper connections to my spirit and to be actively examining it,” he says. “It was an act of introspection.”

Indermaur hopes to take more photographs for “Revealed” in Lawrence this fall and would like to travel to other cities to photograph even more people. Eventually, he’d like the series to become a book.

He wants to continue using the same box, which is made from antique wood.

“This has a lot of energy now,” he says. “A lot of people have shown themselves through it. That makes it more powerful as more people share themselves through it.”