Photography duo Shaughn Crawford and John DuBois of Shaughn and John know a good photo op when they see one. After watching a local California news story about a pair of nuns growing pot in the valley they realized this wasn’t just a good opportunity, it was a drop-everything, must-shoot, once-in-a-lifetime event. The duo just released a stunning set of photographs of these “Sisters of the Valley” on Booooooom and speak to The Creators Project about their process, the nuns, and the temptations of the devil’s weed.
Shaughn explains that this whole series started when he was home with family over Thanksgiving, and saw a local news story “I was like ‘what the fuck, this is crazy’ and I immediately hit them up because we always have our ear to the ground looking for weird stories.” After a bit of searching, Shaughn and John finally connected with the nuns, and “they were totally stoked on our photos, and the idea we had to come and do a more documentary-style project. John and I are really curious about people, and we’re always looking for subcultures within subcultures. We’re very curious about the world.”
Though they wear a habit similar to a Catholic nun, Sisters Kate and Darcy have their own set of beliefs and their own system of faith. Even their look, white habits with denim skirts, are uniquely their own. As John explains, “They were really open with us, as far as what their beliefs are, and what kind of nuns they are. They, right off the bat, said ‘oh back in 2009 I ordained myself’ and they were very open about the fact that they’re not affiliated with the Catholic church.” The nuns went on to explain that they hold ceremonies, burn sage, and make their products by the cycles of the moon. “It’s kind of more spiritual than religious,” says John.
The nuns have just opened a GoFundMe page to help save their business after Etsy shut them down. During Shaughn and John’s visit, the nuns were very candid about the legality of their work. Even though medical marijuana is legal in California, and they claim the CBD Oil they create doesn’t contain anything that gets people high, they still don’t run a legal business because of permit and license issues. As Shaughn explains, the nuns “didn’t care, or didn’t worry about it, she was just going to see what happens.” Does that lack of worry about repercussions stem from their faith? John doesn’t think so, “They don’t seem to operate with assumptions based in any spiritual belief. They’re just headstrong women who are really passionate about what they’re doing and believe in the cause.” Shaughn adds that, “A lot of their ‘religion’ has to do with helping people. They’re very into the idea of helping people with their medicine. That’s one thing they talk about non-stop.”
“That and politics,” says John. “They have political opinions that they’re very open about. A lot about social justice, and they’re big Bernie Sanders fans.” John says the nuns don’t just care about legalizing cannabis, but that they’re interested in a whole host of other progressive social issues.
How did the duo make the nuns feel comfortable before shooting? Shaughn says “With all of our projects we try to get to know the people. We don’t just run in there and start shooting. Sometimes John and I will shoot two cameras separately, but in the case of this project we worked together and went slower than some of our jobs, and were just really focused on finding a few amazing shots instead of covering tons of shots.” John says that they spent the first hour just sitting and talking with the sisters. From there the most important shots became clear, as he explains, “Sister Kate, when she gave us the tour of the house, she opened up this refrigerator that was just full of bags of weed. We immediately were like ‘Okay, we’ve got to get a great shot of that.’”
So, the big question is: did the duo get to smoke with the Sisters of the Valley? “No,” says John, “They offered. But we were there to do a job, so we politely declined and focused on the task at hand. We let them do the smoking.” What fortitude! As Shaughn explains, “It was definitely a tough one to turn down.” John concurs, “It’s hard when a nun is sitting there holding a joint up to, but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Check out more of Shaughn and John’s work at ShaughnAndJohn.com.
And donate to the Sisters of the Valley via their GoFundMe page.