- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 5, 2001

Bethesda, Md., cinematographer Anne-Marie Fendrick directed the photography for segments of PBS' "Sister Wendy's American Collection," which premieres at 9 tonight (WETA, Channel 26).
Sister Wendy Beckett, 71, is the British nun who brought her popular, folksy art commentaries to public-TV viewers in 1997. She lives at the Carmelite Monastery in Quidenham, Norfolk, England.
Sister Wendy returns with her "American Collection" series of hourlong visits to Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, Fort Worth's Kimbell Art Museum, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Ms. Fendrick shot three of the episodes. "For someone who spends most of her time alone in silence and meditation, [Sister Wendy] has an astonishing empathy for people," she says.
The cinematographer says she "started 17 years ago climbing my way up the ladder in Hollywood and worked on shows like 'When Harry Met Sally' … ."
"I traveled around the world with Madonna for Madonna's 'Truth or Dare' and produced music videos for Michael Jackson," says Ms. Fendrick, 39. "But filming three episodes of the six-part Sister Wendy series is the real breakthrough for me."
Sister Wendy likes to do just one take, which Ms. Fendrick finds challenging. "She feels she explains best when unrehearsed and without notes. We know what she's going to pick out but not what she's going to say. It's a little nerve-racking and pressured," Ms. Fendrick says.
That's not the only tough part of the job. A shot from up high shows Sister Wendy hurrying through the Boston museum. "I was up on a scissors lift to photograph her from above," Ms. Fendrick says.
The process of photographing fragile and priceless works of art with heavy equipment is paradoxical, she says. To shoot in low light with unwieldy apparatus when the objects are light-sensitive also is challenging.
"We went in for close-ups and spent many hours a day shooting the details and waiting for the right light," she says.
Ms. Fendrick stops a preview tape to point out Paul Revere's gleaming silver Sons of Liberty Bowl (1768) in the Boston museum with John Singleton Copley's portrait of Revere near it.
"We had to zoom in on the names, the 'No. 45' and foliate details even though the bowl is only 5 1/2 inches high and the lip diameter 11 inches. We also had to pull in the Copley painting," she says.
She also stops the tape at a sandstone "Yakshi (Torso of a Fertility Goddess" (circa 25 B.C. to A.D. 25) from India that Sister Wendy describes as "inviting us to prayer."
"Of all the world's great faiths, only Hinduism has completely understood the sacred nature of the human body. If you think the Yakshi is too exposed, you have not understood that she is carved as an act of worship. The female body is created to enter into that most divine of activities: conceiving and bearing a child. The appropriate reaction is reverence," the nun tells us.

WHAT: "Sister Wendy's American Collection," co-produced by WGBH Boston and Spire Films of Oxford, England
WHERE: WETA, Channel 26
WHEN: 9 tonight


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