Picturing faith in Primary Paper

by Steve Watson in February 2022
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Philosophy Photography

There must be something in the ether at the moment that’s making people think about religion and belief. We delivered the ‘Faith’ issue of La Nueva Carne to Stack subscribers at the end of last year, and now Primary Paper’s latest issue also explores the same theme, albeit in a very different way. Whereas La Nueva Carne explores ideas via long written pieces, Primary Paper turns to photography to show different images inspired by people’s personal beliefs.

At the start of the magazine the editors set out exactly what faith means to them: “Beyond just religion and spirituality, Faith is what guides the life we live. It’s what we believe, what we trust and what we admire… It can create a sense of community, but can also cause a divide.” Below I’ve selected a few stories to give a sense of the different ways they interpret this wide-ranging theme.

Bongsan Talchum
A traditional masked dance that mixes visual spectacle with criticism of Korea’s social order, Bongsan Talchum is hundreds of years old and exists to poke fun at the characters on stage, who are typically divided into the three categories of aristocrats, monks and workers. Photographer James Perolls became fascinated by the themes explored in the drama, and contacted stylist Seunghee Son to propose a project that documents the costumes and traditions of the drama. The resulting pictures were all shot in one day, working with students from The Korean National University of Arts in Seoul.


The Future of Religion
There’s a hint of Bongsan Talchum in photographer Cho Gi-Seok’s series of portraits The Future of Religion, but here tradition exists to be manipulated and reworked into a fashion shoot. This is faith used for effect, leaning into the aesthetics of religion and sci-fi futures to infuse the fashion photography with an extra sense of drama — see the mix of traditional dress combined with screens, mobile phones and bizarre cyberpunk gear in the shoot below.


In Loving Memory of Susana
The two projects above contrast with Edward Lane’s documentary project In Loving Memory of Susana, which records the funeral of a woman in Rachitele, a small village in Romania. “Susana was buried on her own land by the people of Rachitele, on the other side of the fence surrounding the house she had lived in, following the tradition of the village’s Orthodox customs.” Quiet and respectful, the documentary photography draws the reader into this small community’s ceremony.



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