Photography in Collaboration: On Religion
May 12, 2017
I was able to start a collaborative photography project named "A sacred and Sullied space" with the support of the Magnum Foundation. The project became a learning experience for me with collaboration and help of Sasha von Oldershausen and other expert advisors.
In August 2016,five collaborative teams were selected by an independent jury to explore the topic of religion with production grants made possible by the Henry Luce foundation. Photography in collaboration can produce uniquely effective storytelling and expand our knowledge of the politically significant and vastly complex ways that religion impacts our lives.Throughout a journey into the Mandaeans's world and everyday lives and practices, this story explores the untold dimensions of being an ethnoreligious minority in Ahvaz, in southwestern Iran. The Mandaeans believe that natural flowing waters are pure, sacred, and life-giving, despite this, the Karun river, in which they practice their religious rituals, is becoming ever more polluted. They baptize in the Karun, imbibe it, and worship it. The sacred yet sullied river blurs the boundaries of the long-existing dichotomy of sacredness of religiosity and profanity of contamination, as the Mandaeans are occasionally and arbitrarily labeled as Najis, ritually unclean, by the Muslim community of Ahvaz. This twofold tension between the Mandaeans' imagery of the purity of the Karun river and the Muslim community's image of Mandaeans as ritually unclean as well as the reality of the pollution of the Karun river shape the story.