Last year I crossed paths with Mormon missionaries who live in my apartment complex. Having been raised in the Mormon Church, I expressed interest in documenting their ministry in an effort to show a private dimension of their lives that is unknown to many. We agreed I would be allowed to photograph what they do in various neighborhoods in exchange for giving them pizza and rides around town.
At eighteen years old, Mormon Elders are still developing physically and spiritually while working to share their gospel in a culture far from home. Most of the missionaries I have photographed have been from the Utah Valley—places like Provo or West Jordan; Southern California (Temecula, San Diego); Eastern Oregon; and Boise, Idaho. Notably, Elder Nabulivula came from a small village in Fiji, but Polynesian culture is rich with Mormon history. Serving for a period of two years, these young men postpone activities that others their age experience, such as college, dating, television, social media, and time with family. And they encounter the same growing pains as other young people traveling far from home to attend college or serve in the military.
This collection of photographs, made in Shreveport, Louisiana, reveals the transitory conditions in which missionaries live as they embed themselves in a place for six weeks to six months, then are transferred by the Church to a new city just as they are becoming familiar with the area and its people. The process of getting to know strangers and one another repeats as the Elders move elsewhere and a new group takes their place in the neighborhood, as well as in my series.