|Photograph by Shannon Finney, December 2009, Alexandria, Virginia|
One of my favorite childhood memories was Grandma hauling out the big box from the back of the closet with our family Nativity scene. The figurines were small and chipped from decades of wear and tear and Christmastime appearances. Grandma would let my sister and I set up the figurines on the coffee table in the living room, though I would wander in and out of the room throughout the holidays adjusting the figures, and treating them like Biblical action figures. My love of miniatures continues, but it reaches its zenith at Christmas. I photographed the above Nativity scene several years ago at a church in Old Town Alexandria, and it's one of my favorites. It feels like a three-dimensional, pastoral painting, set in rural Europe, rather than in the Middle East. The humans and the barnyard animals all have that calm, bemused expression on their faces, which makes this small wonder a visual treat.