Exploring/expressing faith through photography

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by mark, Feb 24, 2006.

  1. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,270
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    Is there anyone out there doing this? I don't mean just documenting churches or cathedrals (though these can be nice images) but I am talking about the beliefs and dogma of different faiths.

    I guess I should preface this with I am looking for positive images. There are a schloo pot full of images and art that explores different faiths from a bitter and hateful stance.

    And not just from the big three: Islam, Christianity, Jewish
     
  2. haris

    haris Guest

    Mark, that is really good question. I tried, that is I started project which is next: in my town all churches, mosques are closed during the night. Which means that no one who at night (and night is time when this happens in majority cases) get into moral, religious, emotional, etc... crisis can not ask help from his/hers religion, in this case people (priests), whose "job" is taking care of human soul. So, I started to photograph religious places in my town during night, closed, unreachible for people in crisis. I didn't do good job first time, so I will have to start it again...

    So, answer to your question is: I tried, but failed...
     
  3. avandesande

    avandesande Member

    Messages:
    1,246
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Tijeras, NM
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I think comparing cermonies such as marriage or coming of age might be interesting, and something all faiths share in common.
     
  4. PhotoPete

    PhotoPete Member

    Messages:
    320
    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2005
    Location:
    Waltham, MA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I am about to embark on a series of images dealing with the iconography and visual signifiers of Catholic Saints
     
  5. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Mark,

    This is a really good post. Certainly one that is close to me. I think, speaking for myself, that any valid faith is personal and apart from any organized religion. It is something that I discover for myself based on the apparent evidence to support it's validity.

    As I look back on my photographs over the past twenty years or so, I find that images taken back then have very personal meanings to me today. Almost as if I were expressing a symbolism in my search.
     
  6. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

    Messages:
    1,607
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2005
    Location:
    Iowa
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I am of no faith, but I've been wanting to do something like this. I was raised Roman Catholic (so yes, I have a Roman Catholic mother :wink:) and grew up with a healthy respect for the architecture and, even moreso, the traditions. This respect has extended to a wide variety of religions. I think what would interest me most at this time is to document a day in the life of a certain religion. I think the main obstacle I'd have would be whether or not some people/places allowed photography.
     
  7. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,270
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    I guess I am looking for the symbolic representations of a faith's teachings. Exploring this could be interesting. I agree that it can and probably should be a very personal thing. I am looking for an insiders view.
     
  8. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format

    What I experienced in retrospect is that at a subconcious level I was experiencing views and realizations without an awareness that this was occurring.

    In my experience this occurred when I had no preconceived ideas.

    It was almost as if my photography was symbolically revealing the view that I hold today.
     
  9. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,341
    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2005
    Location:
    Dearborn,Mic
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Light has always been the metaphor for the creator's spirit.

    Look at Salgado, Gene Smith and go from there. Watch the light.

    For a Christian point of view on Imagery, take a look at "Image As Insight" by Margaret Miles.

    Doctrine and Dogma defy imagery because it is nothing to do with Faith.

    Technical Writing perhaps, but not faith.

    .
     
  10. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,974
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I was employed by Franciscan Communications back in the late 1980s. They were a Catholic Organization that made high production movies and books about Catholic life.

    Some of their movies used people like Martin Sheen, Joseph Camponella (sp?), director Alan Davia, and even Jack Nicholson in his early days.

    I worked on a Time/Life style set of books for Catholics and most of the photography was not "religious" per se. It was mostly about the interaction of families and people in daily life. There were of course pictures of religious events but the thrust of the work was pretty much every day people living their lives. I made about 10,000 photographs for them and they used them in their books and video covers.

    It wasn't high art, just everyday life.


    Michael
     
  11. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,571
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Tonopah Neva
    Shooter:
    ULarge Format
    When I'm not spreading hate and discontent, I love to go out into the little bits and pieces of unspoiled creation that survives intact and try to capture just a hint of the glory that the Creator left for us.
     
  12. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    5,894
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2004
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    This and your other thread has me thinking a lot about the work of Kenro Izu. I saw a show "Sacred Places" of his that was quite moving.
     
  13. Timothy

    Timothy Member

    Messages:
    199
    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2003
    Location:
    Toronto
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Truth BEHIND the Camera

    This is an interesting thread. Especially when you consider how much every photograph reveals about the photographer behind the camera and not just the image in front of it. I think that whether any photographer is aware of it or not; whether he/she likes it or not; there is no way to avoid the fact that making a photograph is always a bit like being naked in public.
    Mark, your original question seems to indicate that you think there is some way that a photographer can control what is revealed about himself in his photographs. I mean, if I have understood, a photograph that "documents" the inside of a church, in your view, does nothing to express one's actual faith. I would beg to differ.
    While I can understand a desire to try to focus on, or perhaps emphasize more, the actual way that one feels about one's own faith, I am suggetsting that perhaps , in a way, it is a losing proposition. For example, if I take a series of pictures of my wife, no matter what else you might say about them, I would bet that you would get an idea of how I feel about her. Yet, if I set out to try to illustrate to you how I feel about my wife, I think the images would wind up looking contrived, cliche, boring. Not because I feel differently but because the spontineity and "honesty" of the first set of images was obstructed by the "agenda" of trying to inject some truth into the second set of images.
    The truth is the truth, and it is revealed in every image you make. In the example above, you might point out that the second set of images would at least succeed at showing something about my feelings. My point is that they would be lousy photographs.
    I think that if you make photographs about things that you know something about and that matter to you, and if you try to make the best photographs that you can, ... your faith and all of your virtues will be revealed.

    Tim R
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Clueless

    Clueless Member

    Messages:
    168
    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I did not know that one could separate their "faith" from their manifestations.
    The Abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery has an "eye" and has offered a few "faith" images. Early in his life he learned meditation from Minor While while taking up photography. "Art-practice" (sometimes, photography) is one of the learning forms used in The Eight Gates of Zen. As practice, trainees are required to be empty of themselves as they approach a poffered theme. It seems that the abandonment of "self" enables an intimacy, a celebration of one.
     
  16. donbga

    donbga Member

    Messages:
    2,084
    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2003
    Shooter:
    Large Format Pan
    Yes this has been done in different ways by different photographers. The first one that comes to mind is the Amish work that George Tice made mostly in the '60s. Another photographer Laura Wilson (Avedon's former assistant) spent many years documenting the Hutterites of Montana and published a book by the same name. Other photographers have done books or portfolios of various cult type relegious groups like Baptist snake handlers and small southern black Baptist chruches and their members, though I can't recall their names now.

    Chris Ranier has also done work with different cultures around the world whose subjects and environments usually have some religous associations.

    Don Bryant


    Don Bryant
     
  17. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

    Messages:
    2,297
    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2003
    Location:
    Floriduh
    Shooter:
    35mm
    For a long time I have thought about doing a documentary on different faiths and their observances that one might see that in the end we really are not all that different from each other. I guess this would be my way of expressing my faith which is spiritual not religious. Now all I need is a good host.
     
  18. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,974
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I just kind of dawned on me but I don't think that most religions outside of Christianity and maybe Islam, consider their religion to be a "faith". Meaning "a hope, that I believe in".

    I'm sure someone will correct me on that. Not sure.


    Michael
     
  19. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,270
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    these folks weren't exploring their faiths were they? I have seen tice's Amish work but he was not Amish. There are tons of outside looking in portfolios but I am looking for people on the inside doing it exploring their own faith.
     
  20. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

    Messages:
    6,242
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2002
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Just to clarify things, are you euphemistically calling a religion a "faith"? It seems to me that a faith is an individual's experience or belief that may or may not exist within the confines of an organized religion. Whereas adherants of an organized religion may not have faith those who do not embrace an organized religion may have the greater actual faith. The two are separate and distinct in my perspective.

    I am just trying to gain clarity on what it is that you want to do.
     
  21. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,607
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    DFW, Texas
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Just for the record, Merriam Webster defines "faith":

    2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
    3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

    Can't speak for Islam, but Christians often use "faith" as a synonym for religion; i.e., "marrying within one's own faith".

    All that being said, Donald asks a good question.

    Cheers,

    David
     
  22. haris

    haris Guest

    Not much difference between Islam and Christianity in this matter.
     
  23. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,607
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Location:
    DFW, Texas
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    (I had been considering posting to this thread, but had hesitated until I saw where it was going, but now I'll just go ahead.)

    I, along with four other apuggers, have started on a project to photograph places of worship. Being five of us, there are multiple perspectives and motivations for participating in the project. Religion and faith play a part, but so does various interests in history, preservation, art, architecture, anthropology, sociology, etc.

    It will be intersting to see how this all turns out, and we will let you (APUG) know. :smile:

    I'm not sure if we will touch on Mark's motivations or not. We'll see.

    David
     
  24. rbarker

    rbarker Member

    Messages:
    2,222
    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2004
    Location:
    Rio Rancho,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Although I don't have any references for works of this type, it seems to me there are a couple of ways to approach doing it. As with many subjects, the first key is probably "understanding" the faith and how it and the associated symbology manifests in its believers. Then, once you know what to look for, the photography can be approached from either a photojournalistic perspective (the luck of being in the right place at the right time, with the right measure of sensitivity), or a "staged" photojournalistic manner (creating the right time, right place, but still having the sensitivity - something akin to editorial work). While "it" is all in your heart, you can use your mind to create the scene that conveys the message.
     
  25. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,974
    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2002
    Location:
    Wine country, N. Cal.
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    From my perspective, I consider all religions as man made. We have been inventing them from the beginning of time. However I do believe in God.

    So to me, photographing man- made structure like churches, or whatever your religion calls them, is meaningless. It is only honoring the people that made them.

    If you do believe in God, one would probably conclude that he/she made this earth and by photographing the beauties of this planet you are indeed, honoring God.

    That being said, if you wish to see the perfect manifestation of God, look into the face of a child.

    Of course of your intent is to photograph the nuances of different religions or their customs, then that is another matter.

    Michael
     
  26. mark

    mark Member

    Messages:
    5,270
    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2003
    There are two ways to interpret it but this is what I meant by faith:

    belief in something that cannot be proven. Any life way or tradition a person holds to and uses to guide their actions. The Navajo Kinnaalda`(A girl's puberty ceremony) would be just as valid as Passover, a Sunday mass, bowing to Mecca, or NAC Peyote meeting. I am looking for someone who is symbolically exploring their own faith through photography.

    "Organized" religion is based on faith, in fact, there is organization and structure to all life ways and traditions. None more valid or invalid than the other.

    Of course there are those who, say, go to church on Sunday morning because they are Catholic but balance their checkbook while they are there. There are also those who are sitting next to them who get down and pray a rosary and light a candle not because they "have to" but because the "need" to, and there are those inbetween the two. There are those just going through the motions in whatever tradition, life way, or religion you can name, with absolutely no faith at all. To me Faith is Faith. You either have it or you don't have it. If you have it, you express it in what ever means is most appropriate for yourself.