Preparations Assignment 2 – Order of Images and Captions

The end result of this assignment should be a blog page on which the images are available in high res. Even though every photograph should stand on its own, with its own narrative, I do want to see which order of images works best for a good flow. These are the images that I have selected:

Now that I look at it in this order, I feel that I want to start and end with a visually strong image and spread the images with people in it. The question is whether the flow should be determined by content or visual elements. Then, I guess for the viewer, both work together, so I’ll try to find a balance in both.

To keep a steady flow, I like to bring contrast between the images. From busy, filled images, to images that have a bit more quiet feel and are a bit more contemplative. After some shuffling around, this is the order of which I feel it works best.

I’m still wondering if the images need captions. I think most of them speak for themselves and I wonder if by adding captions I am dictating the viewers interpretations of the photographs. I will add them and then see what my tutor thinks.

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Preparations Assignment 2 – Consecration

When I think about faith and religion in general, its significance in somebody’s life is correlated to the devotion one has to its beliefs, way of life and deities that are worshipped. In my Christian upbringing I was taught that the devotion started on God’s side. He dedicated themselves first to us and gave everything for humankind, and that’s why I should devote myself in the same way to God and others. I have seen similar attitudes in other faiths, even though sometimes based on different theologies and inner drives, Faiths are not real unless there is dedication and consecration involved. Deities and gods become alive and real when a believer consecrates himself to it.

This triangle of ‘make’ belief, devotion and reality is tense and brimming with emotions. It touches on the ideas of what is real and not, what can we believe to be real from what we see, what are reflections and what is truth? In which sense can we believe the deities in whom we have put are trust to have devoted themselves just as much to us as we to them? Can we expect the same dedication from them as we are willing to give to them?

I went to this temple before having started with Assignment 2, but I do want to add the images to it, because I find it is a good reflection of the tension described above. Although it is a typical Hindu god and setting, the interplay of reality and fake, consecration and make belief are universal themes that come back in all religions. We see a man and woman reflected in the window, behind which a Shiva and an other goddess is standing. I think that the layers of past and present, real and fake and the urge to become like gods, even though they are fake, become clear and are effective in bringing the notion of faith and its implications across.

As you can see, I have done quite some heavy editing to get the effect that I wanted, but in black and white this becomes a bit less visible.

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Preparations Assignment 2 – Context

We visited Goa just a week after New Year’s Eve. During Christmas time, Goa is wonderfully decorated and transforms in a Christmas wonderland. When we were there they had just started to take them down. It looked a bit sad and reminded me of how the value of a celebration or aspect of one’s religion only has its value in a certain context, time and place. My own faith faded away when I moved out of my Christian community and stopped going to church. I realized most of it had been based on the social context I had been in, the theology I had chosen to believe and follow and the morals I had felt obliged to follow. I don’t want to say it is all empty and relative, but the decorative parts of religion actually are.

Below you will find a few of the images I took, of which I think these two reflect my feelings best.

Although I think the image with the snowman is quite funny, I will add the fallen star and banner to my assignment, because it reflects the idea of what remains when faith is taken out of context.

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Preparations Assignment 2 – Words

All faiths and religions seem to get their inspiration from language, whether written or spoken by godly inspired people. I myself used to have blind faith in whatever I could read in the Bible. Even though some things were a bit difficult to understand, I would always be able to put them in a framework of my faith and find reason, comfort and guidance from the texts. Now that I’m a happy agnostic, I still see my Christian friends struggling with inconsistencies, outdated or un logical parts of the Bible, or struggling with the incompatibility of 21st century issues with this century old book.

I still notice how much power words have. Advertisements, speeches, claims of truth and information all influence the way I think about my reality, my hopes and opinions. As part of this assignment I wanted to photograph shots from the street taken from the car at night. I find that a street looks completely different when there is only unnatural light, there is much more focus on advertisements, colours and interiors and I see details that otherwise are invisible.

Besides that, I love how spontaneous photographs can sometimes turn out to be real gems.

When I saw this sign, I immediately decided to add it to my assignment. It takes a lot of faith and trust to call somebody based on this ad, let alone trust what the person tells you simply by looking at your face. Somehow, most people prefer this over the plain facts about ourselves, draw strength from it and sometimes are even willing to change their complete lives based on this.

Even though I am fascinated by these kind of ads, I prefer to use an other image in my assignment, because I find that the image itself is not visually strong enough to stand on its own. There should be more about the image than just the text.

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Preparations Assignment 2 – Trust

In order to have some diversity in the series regarding different types of religion, I decided to take photographs in Church of Saint Francis in Old Goa. This church is home to a mummy, special relics and some beautiful statues, but what striked me most when looking for photographs regarding faith, was this man sitting under a tree that seemed to be topping over. Here are a few images that I took and the one I decided to add to the assignment.

I love how the man is enjoying a nap in the shape of the tree, trusting that it will not fall on top of him, while St Francis is looking the other way, giving its blessing to an empty space. The image shows the tension between faith and reality and which one of those brings real comfort and which one should we trust? Here is the image in black and white:

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Preparations Assignment 2 – Artefacts

Before moving to Delhi 1,5 years ago, I had never lived in a country with a dominant polytheistic religion. Even though I had seen Christian and Muslim relics before, I was quite overtaken by the concepts of holy animals, water, flowers and things, people and places, that are prevalent on every corner in India. I wanted to add this sanctification of things to my assignment, again showing that even though the objects might be typical for a specific religion, the idea of using them for means of worship, draw strength or inspiration from, is a world wide phenomenon. I went to a small, family run temple near my house and photographed different corners and artifacts. It was getting dar, so the images are quite low key, which in a way also brought out the details, colours and structure of the subjects, giving the photo a classical still life effect, which I really like.

Of  the selection, I prefer the first one and final one, for their composition and narrative. The first one has a stronger narrative, but I choose to add the final one to my assignment. The image provokes certain questions about what the artifacts are used for and their meaning within the faith they represent. On the other hand, many of the items are familiar and convey the similarity with practices of other religions

Again, even though I love the colours in this image, I have transformed it into black and white for the sake of consistency in the assignment. Besides that, with the high contrast – high structure process, the details of the artifacts become clearer and the background becomes a bit more distinct.

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After seeing all the images together, I started doubting about how this image works together with the others. Especially in black and white it is a bit difficult to distinguish the subjects in the photograph. So I decided to go back to the photographs I took at the cremation site near the Yamuna river. This river is considered to be holy. There are some temples on the water and the ghats and people come daily to do perform their rituals and prayers. Holy it may be, the river is extremely polluted, because the 22 million city sewage ends here, but also because of all the religious artefacts, chemicals and garbage that is dumped here.

These images question the concept of holiness, spiritual power and our actual treatment of the artefacts themselves.  In a sense the pollution shows that boundaries of the individualism of faith. Even though the artefacts pollute the water, because of the powers they grant to the individual believer, changes to have a more respectful approach to nature or environment, and therefor the greater good, are almost impossible to make. I have experienced this same hypocrisy in other faiths. Believing in the goodness of God, or God as creator, but not being able to share that goodness to others, or take care of creation itself. Believers use their artefacts for their personal profit only, claim it to be holy, but what’s in a word when it’s only beneficial to a few individuals?

My preference goes to this image, because I think the composition works best and it has a meditative character to it. Still it emphasises the contrast between tranquility and mess, peacefulness and pollution.

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Preparations Assignment 2 – Ambition

When I passed this scene, I immediately had to think of the biblical story of the the Tower of Babel. The people decided that they would build a tower to reach God, who punished them by giving everybody a different language to speak. Communication failed and the tower was never finished. The juxtaposition of the white temple and God on the porch with the construction in the background shows the the tension between dependence and independence, modernity and traditional beliefs, frugality and prosperity. India has one of the fastest economies in the world, and the contrasts that this brings about are visible on the edges of society, the places where change is taking place, rural areas turning urban, clean air becomes polluted and tradition and faith overshadowed by growth.

I photographed the temple and construction from different angles to see what worked best. I want to focus on the transformation and contrast in such a way that it is striking and as extreme as possible. I believe the one in which the temple is right in the front and construction coming up behind it works best. I like how the compression of the subjects distorts the actual sizes of the temple and construction, changing the scale and visual importance. It adds a symbolic layer of dependence on God or men to the photograph that I want to emphasize.

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As you can see, I have considered deleting the electricity line in order to emphasize the composition of the image and I’m still doubting whether to leave it in or out. Here’s the photo in black and white.

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