Help wanted: researcher & photographer for next book


My latest book, The Ghost of My Father, is barely two weeks old but I’m starting research on another book. This time the topic is religion, architecture and place. The tentative title is The Atheist of Jerusalem. It’s a project I’ve thought about since my first visit to Israel in 2012, and I have a window of opportunity to work on it now.

The pitch: Jerusalem has important sites for three major world religions, and each religion has different claims about which buildings and locations represent  the presence of the divine. Who would be best to arbitrate their claims? It would be an atheist, someone with no stake in any particular religion who could visit these places, make observations and ask questions the faithful wouldn’t think to ask. The ambition is to write a book that asks and answers important questions for both the faithful and the faithless.

The book: I will visit the major religious sites in Jerusalem, and write about the experience. What do I see? What questions do I have? What are the answers? What does it feel like to be a curious, well-read and mostly respectful atheist to visit some of the most religiously significant places in the world?

Chapters might include:

  • Walking the Via Dolorosa
  • “Praying” at The Western Wall  (I’m of Jewish heritage, thus the quotes)
  • Watching at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
  • Thinking at the Temple of The Mount

The book’s primary goal will not be a manifesto on religion or to debate theology, but instead to use the physical experience of visiting these places, and both their history and the experience of visiting them today, to explore the questions and answers they raise.

Help Wanted: Researcher(s)

I need one or two people who are experts at doing research to help me study the history of each site I’m planning to visit. Before I go (Dec 1st) I need to know how each site has changed over time, how the meaning has changed within the particular religion, and be prepared with specific questions and ideas before I arrive. The research goal is to provide me with a dossier for each location.

Ideally you’d have a background in religious history, religious studies, architecture or live near Jerusalem. The position would be paid with a stipend for the project and a major acknowledgement in the book.

Time commitment: a few hours a week through November and early December.

Help Wanted: Photographer

I need to partner with a local (e.g. Jerusalem) photographer who can come with me as we visit each site. The photographs would be central to the book, documenting what I saw, what the experience was like, how I tried to answer the questions I had, etc. As a local you’d possibly help co-ordinate the project logistics and intangibles I’m overlooking.

The position would be paid with a stipend for the project, I’d cover at least some of your meals, and you’d get a major acknowledgment in the book.

Time commitment:  you’d need to spend a few hours a day with me while I’m visiting Jerusalem (first week in December).

How To Apply

To apply for either position, do the following:

  1. Take a deep breath, they’re good for you. Follow this list carefully.
  2. If you’re interested in research, explain how the Via Dolorosa’s location has changed (or has it?), with references. One page is sufficient.
  3. If you’re a photographer, send me to your portfolio and list any relevant professional/documentary shooting experience. (Note: ideally you live in Israel. If you don’t live in Israel you’d have to be willing to go there first week in December.)
  4. Tell me either the superpower you’d like to have, or your favorite meal (and why you love it).
  5. Contact me with the above here

2 Responses to “Help wanted: researcher & photographer for next book”

  1. Sean Crawford

    I enjoyed reading this because it seemed so competently done and clear. I get a kick out of question 4, another competent thing.

    I don’t photograph or research myself, but here is how I could answer 4:

    In my family the day before payday my less happy family would eat plain macaroni or organs in rice. Then came payday, every second Thursday. This meant relief and happiness—we loved that day of shopping: Six kids meant a very full buggy. And that night we’d have roast beef, the kind with the strings on it, and gravy, and mashed potatoes and peas. It’s been a while: I haven’t had roast beef since I went to a dinner theatre. But that’s my favourite meal.

  2. Daniel H. (Germany)

    Hi Scott,

    when reading your pitch / book idea summary, I’m not so sure if this will really make a book I and maybe others will enjoy. I don’t know many people who really care that much about buildings.
    I am a liberal christian myself and I really care for other beliefs (without trying to convert someone). But my curiosity does not focus on buildings and architecture but on personal stories and experiences.
    So my suggestion would be to maybe not only look at buildings but also include stories of the people affected by it. What do those buildings mean for the people who visit them, what of it affects and resonates with you? What of their feelings, stories and opinions can you accept, what do you reject?

    Then again, I’m not a writer myself and my advice may very well be misleading. Good luck on your trip and I really wish you a good and interesting visit in Israel.

    Cheers, Daniel


Leave a Reply

* Required