After a conversation with Caroline about what I can focus on for my site specific brief I said I was interested in how people think and why they act in a certain way, in particular to do with mental health and religion.

I’ve decided to focus on religion.

An initial research I found out:

According to the 2011 Census

Total people in Coventry = 316,960

Majority Christian of 53.7%

No religion/not stated 29.4%

Sikh, Muslim & Hindu are over the national average:

  • Muslim 7.5% whereas in England 5%
  • Sikh 5% whereas in England 0.8%
  • Hindu 3.5% whereas England 1.5%

Jewish is lowest at 0.1%

Since 2001 more people have said they have no religion.

Christianity tends to be an older person’s religion

Buddhism & Hinduism is 18-40 years old

Muslims 0-4 and 20-40 years old

It was noted that those who described themselves Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu or Sikh were more likely to describe their health as good or very good. Whereas Christians were less likely to say they had a good health. Found on http://www.facts-about-coventry.com/uploaded/documents/Census%202011%20Briefing%20-%20Religion.pdf )

Religious Events coming up:

Eid al Adha – 15th-18th October

Deepavali – 1st-5th November

Diwali – 3rd November

I searched for places of worship in Coventry in google and I looked at maps and a lot of places came up (every red dot and letter place is a place of worship.

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 17.17.19

I would like to do my project on a religion that is in the minority, like Hinduism or Sikhism.

coventry and maps

I’ve noticed the places with a lot of places of worship are in maps 4, 13, 14 or 15. So I might see what places of worship are there.

I have searched for minority religion’s worship places in Coventry and three religions have their worship place in Coventry.

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 21.14.59

The green dot is the Friend’s Meeting House for Quakers in map 13. However also Buddhist meetings can happen here.

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 21.15.27

In map 14 there is the Sikh temple (red dot) and a Hindu temple (blue dot). It is also worth noting that opposite the Sikh temple is a Catholic Church.

I’m intrigued by the Sikh temple as I don’t know much about the religion so it could be interesting to learn as I go.

However, I really like the idea of looking at Buddhism in what is essentially a Christian worship place.

But I am also really interested in religion.

Religion and Photography

Some branches of religions are against taking photos. For example some parts of Islam are against their photos being taken and they might quote :  

“Allaah, may He be exalted, says: ‘Who does more wrong than the one who tries to create something like My creation? Let him create a grain of wheat or a kernel of corn.'” (Reported by al-Bukhaari, see Fath al-Baari, 10/385).

Famously Philip-Lorca diCorcia photographed people in New York through the window of a shop window he set up in 2001, the series was entitled ‘Heads’. One man he took a photograph of was a man who was an Orthodox Jew. When the man found out his photograph had been taken, sold (on average the prints went for $20, 000 each) and published in a book (which sold thousands of copies). The man sued diCorcia on the grounds of religious rights. Actually diCorcia won under the first amendment. Although this is an interesting photo, which sparks very interesting debates, it doesn’t really give any information, I want the context of the temple. I want my approach to be documentary approach and for the viewer of the photographs to learn about the religion from the photos.

I watched a video on Youtube called Faith in Suburbia photography project but the whole project can be found here. A woman called Claire Dwyer a Geography lecturer and researcher at UCL. She has been researching about changes to the suburban landscape involved with migration and faith. She got six volunteers from six different faiths to photograph around one anothers places of worship. Each place of worship was around the Ealing area. The faiths were Anglican, Catholic, Sikh, Hindu, Islam and Judaism. They asked senior citizens to give their perspective. They weren’t given much direction, but one focused on similarities to their own faith another in the involvement of animals. I really like this idea but as I have to stick to one map I thought I could do it between the Catholic Church and Sikh Gudwara as they are opposite each other it would be interesting to see the similarities between the two faiths. I like that someone can learn from this project. Ideally I would like to go to different places of worship and compare the religion.

David LaChapelle did a series called ‘Jesus Is My Homeboy’. This series recreates famous scenes of the Bible for example he last super but in modern day New York. I really like the series I think it is really interesting and well done. However, this is not what I want to do I would rather go to documentation of what I see and experience as opposed to recreations of shots. He even exhibited them in a church. LaChapelle seems to have done a lot of work around the subject of religion all are too fashion or not documentary style for example Heaven to Hell, Passion of the Christ with Kanye West and Angels, Saints and Martyrs. I like LaChapelle’s work very much but it’s not the result I want from this project because it has more of an editorial feel than documental approach.

Nina Berman went around the USA looking at Mega Churches, these are huge churches where thousands of people can come to worship God, pray and come for mass. This is more like what I want to do, I would document the place of worship inside and out, with and without people in it. Although obviously the places I want to go to are a lot smaller.

Shannon Taggart photographed in a basement of Vodou ceremonies in series called Ceremony I and Ceremony II. I like how Taggart has documented the event. That is what I would like to do, to document the ceremonies that take place, what happens at them and the emotions of the worshipers.

Andres Serrano also has a lot of work to do with religion for example the photography ‘Piss Christ’ where Serrano photographed a crucifix in a glass of his own urine. And his other work isn’t documentary so I don’t want to try to recreate it. Especially as this doesn’t have much to do with a place of worship and doesn’t inform the viewer either.

I looked through the Visionairre book on Religion. This is an art and fashion publication. The photos of the book and some images I like can be seen below. Again this isn’t a documentary body of work, each image was created. I loved looking through it, and some do look like they could be documentary, like the candles, but I like documentary photos in colour, I feel if you want document what happens it should be completely truthful to what you see.


On Wednesday 6th November I went to the Gurdwara in Coventry. I think it should be okay for me to photograph but I need to speak to a committee. But the man I spoke to was very informative and gave me a brief overview of his religion:

  • They believe in equality, for the time Sikhism was set up this was revolutionary.
  • At that time women were seen as lesser beings
  • There were ten prophets
  • The donate 10% of their earnings to charities
  • At the Gurdwara has a donation based kitchen where people from all backgrounds can come to eat as long as they have not taken any form of drug and have come in intoxicated.
  • Their holy book was written down as it happened.

At the moment I have two different ideas for my assignment:

  1. Compare sikhism to a western religion
  2. Using photography explore Sikhism to gain my understanding of the religion

After emailing the man I saw at the Gurdwara I didn’t get a response, but I texted him and I am taking photos at temple on Sunday 17th November. He said there is a ceremony taking place and changing of the flags, so they thought it would be a good opportunity to take photos.

I’ve decided to learn the basics of the religion so I can explore it using photography.

  • The word Gurdwara means gateway through which the Guru could be reached, this was introduced by the Guru Hargobind.
  • Any place with the Guru Granth Sahib is installed and treated with respect can be classed a Gurdwara.
  • There are three main functions of a Gurdwara: 1. Singing of hymns. 2. Reading of the Guru Granth Sahib. 3. Free community kitchen.
  • When entering the Gurdwara one is expected to remove shoes and cover their head.
  • Usually you should bow down and touch the floor.
  • People donate money and food for the kitchen.
  • Some Gurdwaras provide temporary accommodation for pilgrims
  • There is only one God, who is the creator, destroyer and sustainer (note these are the three main deities in Hinduism)
  • The Holy Book (Guru Granth Sahib) is never changing, there is no place for a new Guru. It contains text from other faiths.
  • It is a very equal religion – there is no distinction of caste, creed, race or sex. – The Guru stressed equality of woman. At the time of the creation of Sikhism women were treated as inferior and a man’s property, Guru Nanak shocked entire society by saying you should treat women as equals.

The ceremony that is happening on Sunday is Parkash Guru Nanak Dev – Guru Nanak’s birthday

Guru Nanak Dev:

  • 1469 – 1539
  • He is the first Master and founder of Sikhism
  • Born into a Hindu family but was taught Muslim literature.
  • He was a disappointment to his family because he didn’t go through one of the Hindu traditions – The sacred thread ceremony.
  • He liked to have discussions with Muslim and Hindu holy men
  • It is believed that Guru Nanak disappeared in a river. met God in holy communion and enlightened him. Three days later he reappeared in the same spot and in some form of trance. He distributed his belongings and wealth the the poor. He broke his silence by saying “There is no Hindu or Muslim”
  • He started to spread the message of God.

I found some photos of Sikhs: http://www.sikhs.org/memories/index.html

Many of them are posed, which is not what I am going for.

On Sunday 17th November I went to the Gurdwara I had a great time there. I was really nervous, I thought I would be treated differently but this was definitely not the case. Everyone was so hospitable. Because it was a special occasion I documented what happened but also got the photos I wanted. I felt the photos of the celebrations weren’t good for gaining an understanding to the religion as  I didn’t want to generalise that what happens on this day happens most days.

I narrowed down the photos that I liked to these:

After a discussion with my peers I chose five, but because of how aesthetically pleasing they were. For me I wasn’t completely comfortable with it. I felt the photos didn’t document what I saw. I wanted the photos to show the people’s faith. But this meant it would be harder to get the message across. I didn’t feel prints were enough, and they didn’t give justice to the photos. After a discussion with a third year he said to create prints of religious text to go alongside the prints but I felt that would make my work less documentary. So I went to Caroline, she said to create a photo film so I can talk about what I saw when I went. The photos I am going to discuss are:

I am going to talk about my experience there mixed with an understanding of the religion.


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