Capturing people in the private act of worship is the most sensitive and difficult aspect of any genre of photography> Quite the opposite of “celebrity photography,” where the subject generally wants to be seen, a person in communication with their “higher power` prefers to be left in peace.
Patience is an asset. One is often advised of location only to arrive and find that nothing is happening. Or that the ceremony was held last Sunday. Or that it has been rescheduled for next Sunday. Or that despite the priest-imam-rabbi’s- blessing, someone in the congregation objects to being photographed.
With permission to photograph Sunday Mass in Havana Cathedral, I was waiting discreetly behind a column when another photographer walked in and began blitzing the congregation with a powerful flash.
“Will the photographer behind the pillar please stop taking pictures!” said the priest, in the middle of dispensing the Holy Sacraments. He had assumed it was me, and I slunk out without a single picture!
There were many moments like this during the years it took to build up a stock of world faiths, but helped by contributing photographers, the World Religions Photo Library celebrates its fourteenth anniversary in 2013. The collection features the mainstream religions – Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism, as well as other faiths and cults, all searchable on-line.
Subjects include traditional religious life in various contexts and worldwide locations, notably people practising their faith, the rites of passage, sacred foods, festivals and pilgrimage, worship and dress. The site is linked to a second website focusing on faith travel and sacred sites, many of which feature on the World Heritage List.