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HABIT OF CHARITY NUN'S PHOTOS INTENDED TO STIR SPIRIT OF GENEROSITY.

Byline: Evan Pondel Staff Writer

THOUSAND OAKS - She is known as the nun with the Nikon.

The photographs Sister Rose Marie Tulacz takes are virtually flawless, often compassionate explorations of people who have endured malnutrition and disease. Her most recent trip was to a small community in Tanzania where cholera and malaria were as frequent as the common cold.

With a camera draped on her shoulder, Tulacz set out to help the people of the Arusha village by raising awareness of their struggles.

``My photography was going to be the wax that feeds the flame,'' said Tulacz, 49. ``We need to let go of some of our possessions, time and comfort because somewhere, someone else needs these things more than we do.''

So, Tulacz compiled her photographs in November 2002 and published a book, ``In the Between.'' The hardback has generated about $500,000 in sales, with the proceeds tapped last April to start building a women's center and school in the East African community. But Tulacz is still several hundred thousand dollars away from completing her mission. And while overexposed film loses its image, Tulacz is concerned her mission is not receiving enough light.

``I can't afford to hire a public relations team for $40,000. Yet I need my message to be heard,'' said Tulacz, whose calming presence is often countered by a quirky wit.

Flanked by large panels that Tulacz transports to her photography exhibits, she recently reflected on her journey.

``It wasn't about me. It was about these people who are struggling to survive,'' she said. ``I wanted my photographs to tell their story.''

The halls throughout the Sisters of Notre Dame Center in Thousand Oaks are filled with Tulacz's photography. A laundry room has been converted into a small studio where Tulacz cobbles her portfolios together. The room is tidy, with a few artifacts from her trip to Tanzania. A small wooden giraffe arches its head over a hand-carved bowl.

``This is my work space. I spend much of my time here planning ahead for what's to come,'' she said.

Tulacz is an artist who has channeled her religion to help the impoverished. But aside from the credibility that Tulacz's faith brings to her cause, she claims imposing religion is not her primary objective.

``It goes beyond that. We're helping these people with health care and education,'' she said. ``Many of the women are abused in Tanzania and I was privileged to spend time with them as well as photograph their desperate story.''

There has been help along the way.

The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation pledged $200,000 toward the construction of the women's center, contingent on Tulacz raising at least $270,000.

``She was able to raise the balance by holding fund-raisers, calling on friends and selling a lot of books,'' said Casey Lintern, program officer at the foundation's Los Angeles office. ``My impression of Sister Rose Marie is that she is very entrepreneurial, very artistic and being true to her order.''

Tulacz has sold approximately 1,300 books, each costing $115.25 apiece, including tax. A week ago, Tulacz was informed she received a perfect 10 rating in the Multimedia International awards. A majority of the book contains nature photographs. The cover is encased in a transparency, with a small square revealing a dollop of dew resting on a flower petal. Each page has a slight gloss, with tight images of vibrant flora and the hairy stocks that keep them upright. The photographs also have captions, mostly Tulacz's poetry.

``I am the thread that wraps your soul ... In restlessness I am your peace,'' a passage reads.

Other foundations have also contributed to Tulacz's cause. A family foundation donated $160,000 to help create and publish the photography books. Los Angeles-based Anderson Lithograph donated an additional $185,000 in material, pre-press, paper, color work and printing.

``It seemed an impossible task, marketing this book on my own with a zero budget. But I've been so fortunate to have such wonderful people around me,'' she said.

Like Samy Kamienowicz.

Located in the Fairfax district of Los Angeles, Kamienowicz owns a camera shop that Tulacz often frequents. The sales team at Samy's Camera knows the nun with the Nikon. ``Yeah, we all know and admire her over here. She is a very special person,'' said Kamienowicz, who gave Tulacz a hefty discount on her F100 Nikon.

``Not only is she a good photographer, she's doing so much for humanity,'' he said.

Robert Parry, a Los Angeles media consultant, has also donated his time. ``It obviously feels good to help someone like Sister Rose Marie,'' he said. ``She's an impressive woman.''

Tulacz's zeal to help people isn't without sacrifice, though. When she arrived in the Tanzanian village, Tulacz was overcome by the slum surrounding the Sisters of Notre Dame Convent. During the rainy season, garbage and bacteria-laden water washes through the village.

``You see these people, and are almost afraid to get too close,'' she said.

A middle-aged woman who was partially blind from eye disease noticed Tulacz roaming the village. The woman approached Tulacz and immediately latched on to her arm.

``Her eyes were infested with the disease, but in all of my life I've never felt quite the same feeling as I did that day,'' she said.

Tulacz has a photograph of the woman's face; her cornea is clouded by blood and pus.

``As a photographer, sight is important. But for that moment, as that woman stroked my arm, I didn't need to see anything,'' Tulacz said. ``And I realized again, it was possible to have less and be more.''

Evan Pondel, (818) 713-3662

evan.pondel(at)dailynews.com

HOW TO ORDER

To order a copy of In the Between, send a tax-deductible donation of $115.25 to:

Sisters of Notre Dame Tanzania Project

c/o Sister Rose Marie Tulacz

1776 Hendrix Avenue

Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

The total price includes sales tax and shipping.

Phone: (805) 374-9617

E-mail: ndcreation(at)aol.com

Web site: www.inthebetween.com

Tulacz's work will be on display from Feb. 19 to Feb. 22 at the Anaheim Convention Center during the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress.

CAPTION(S):

5 photos, box

Photo:

(1 -- color) Sister Rose Marie Tulacz, 49, of Thousand Oaks stands near a blow-up of a picture taken in Africa that is included in her photo compilation published last year.

(2 -- color) An insect treads a leaf in a shot from ``In the Between.''

(3 -- 4 -- color) Sister Rose Marie Tulacz, left, known as the nun with the Nikon, holds copy of her photo volume. At far left, her close-up of a flower reveals its texture.

(5 -- color) Two children in Tanzania are shown in the book's first pages. The hardback has generated about $500,000 in sales, with the proceeds tapped last April to start building a women's center and school in the East African community.

Evan Yee/Staff Photographer
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2003, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 21, 2003
Words:1154
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