Social Documentary in nature, my images are inspired by Pictorialism; an international style and aesthetic movement that dominated photography during the later 19th and early 20th centuries. A pictorialist views a photograph like a painting, drawing or engraving, as a way of projecting an emotional intent into the viewer's realm of imagination (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pictorialism, 2016). The work of the English Pictorialist Henry Peach Robinson (1830-1901) and French Pictorialist Robert Demachy (1859-1936) are excellent examples of this.
Robinson’s seminal work "The Pictorial Effect in Photography" (1867) introduced the concept that photography is an art form - giving photographers the freedom to capture an image like that of a painter and that photographers should have as much freedom to manipulate or adjust the captured image as a painter (https://juliamargaretcameronsecession.wordpress.com/julia-and-the-photo-art-of-pictorialism/, 2014).
Demachy, best known for his manipulated prints, displayed a distinct painterly quality influenced by the Impressionist painters. A strong proponent of manipulation techniques, he author thousands of articles and several books (http://monovisions.com/robert-demachy-biography-pictorial-photographer/, 2016).
This project invites you to delve into the world of contemporary documentary photography by focusing attention on the "metaphorical, abstract, conceptual, and invisible" (http://artdaily.com/news/48710/Photographers-Examine-the-Fine-Line-Between-Documentary-and-Fine-Art-Photography#.WFKRu9V96Uk, 2008). Expressing an image in the traditional documentary genre does not offer me the artistic opportunity to fully explore my emotional connection. Incorporating a Pictorialist style, allows me to put my "hand on the image" affording me greater artistic licence to develop levels of unexpected complexity to communicate my thoughts behind each photograph.
The inspiration for this project was derived from my experience interacting and befriending Muslims in Kuwait for over four years. I sincerely believe that the recent portrayal of Islam and Muslims by the mass media is biased. The media stereotype that the faith is not peaceful is based on 0.01% of the Islamic population. I offer a dialogue that will allow you a different perspective on which base your opinions and behaviours. According to The Institute of Economics and Peace there are eight qualities towards peaceful existence.
The quality of "Good relations with neighbours" is one such indicator. Living in a complex world we cope by making sense of this information by placing 'things' into categories to make our world simpler. A disadvantage of this heuristic is stereotyping e.g. all Muslims into the same category as a small minority - Jihadist Radicals. My project, The Five Pillars of Islam is intended to balance views.
I see in my everyday life people of different faiths co-existing - raising their families as best they can. The best cure from stereotyping or fear is simply to face your fears. Get out of your comfort zone and get to know the ‘other’! Go to lunch with your Muslim classmates or pay a visit to your Muslim neighbours. You’ll be surprised by their ‘normality’ (http://mvslim.com/10-reasons-for-a-non-muslim-to-become-friends-with-a-muslim/). This project, explaining the five pillars of Islam (thereby demystifying it) makes it accessible to all, and it is my hope that we can find courage in the face of this portrayed stereotype.
The First Pillar of Islam, Shahaadah.
Muslims declare their faith by saying: "Ash hadu anlaa ilaaha illallaahu wa ash hadu anna muhammadar rasulallah". Which means "I bear witness that there is no god except Allaah, (Peace and blessings be upon him, the Arabic word for God) and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allaah (Peace and blessings be upon him).
The Second Pillar of Islam, Salaah
A physical and mental means of worship prescribed five times a day. These are to remember God and to seek forgiveness throughout the day. You face towards the Holy Kaa'bah in Makkah. Salaat (Prayer) is performed at set times: before sunrise, at midday, in the afternoon, in the evening after sunset and at nightfall.
The Third Pillar of Islam, Zakaat.
The Arabic word Zakaat means to purify. Muslims give 2.5% of their surplus wealth to charity every year. This shows obedience to God and prevents greed. Zakaat is given to the poor and those less fortunate than ourselves. It is believed that by giving charity, the possessions you keep are made pure.
The Fourth Pillar of Islam, Sawm.
For one month of the year, Muslims refrain from food, drink and keep away from things that distract them from worship. This is done during the day from dawn to till dusk. Although fasting is beneficial to health, fasting is a form of worship. Additionally it helps them to remember others who are less fortunate and do not have much food or water.
The Fifth Pillar of Islam, Hajj.
Hajj is the journey to the holy sites in Makkaah to perform various rituals. It is only obligatory once in a life time upon those who have the financial means and are physically able. The pilgrims adorn a simple garment that strip away any distinctions of class and culture, so they all stand equal before Allah (God). The final part of the pilgrimage is at the Holy Ka'bah (cube) in the centre of the Great Mosque in Makkaah. http://www.mostresource.org/infographics/
On any Friday night you'll find Abdulla, his wife Noura and three children Fawaz (7), Reema (5) and Alzain (1.5) getting together at their parents house with his sisters to share a meal like many families around the world irrespective of faith.
Through the use of a pictorial style I have been able incorporate additional effects that better express my intentions to communicate the transformation of personal relationships over time.
The media would have portrayed this family as people to be feared, a threat. By welcoming me into their home I am able to share with you part of my everyday interactions with Muslims. Each of us need to appreciate that through greater understanding there is nothing more to fear than from any other faith.
"Understanding replaces Stereotyping" (Peter Smith, 2017)