Research Degree Title
Imaging Faith: The Representation of Christ in Photography
Prof B Brown
Prof H Laskin (external supervisor)
Aims of Investigation
Proposal for a historic survey and systematic analysis and discussion of the representation of Christ in photography including the use and abuse of the Christic image in the light of the artistic, philosophical, religious, social and political changes from the earliest day of the medium until today. The analysis of the tacit yet prominent place this imagery holds in photographic creation suggests the need for a different reading and understanding of the medium in the context of photographs dealing with religious themes.
The aim of the proposed research project is to provide for the first time a comprehensive historic survey of photography in its relation to Christian faith, and more specifically to Catholicism, and thus contribute an additional layer to the existing body of knowledge, as the topic under analysis has not been approached so far in a systematic manner, most probably because of its deeply problematic character. The results of this study will be far reaching as it will necessarily touch upon the social, cultural, political, and above all religious and theological domains, with all the implications and possible dangers this might incur.
The exploration of this uncharted territory opens several issues as to the research questions which are:
What are the conclusions drawn from the historic survey and census of religious photography from 1839 until today regarding:
The reasons for the creation of such imagery.
The cause of the changes that occurred at different periods in time, in relation to theological, philosophical, social, political,and artistic trends and influences.
The relationship of such imagery to the other artistic media and mutual influences.
Is the treatment of religious subjects in photography a function of the artist’s cultural and environmental background and surrounding?
Why is Christian imagery and symbolism used not only by artists/photographers of different denominations within Christianity but also by individuals belonging to non-Christian faiths?
Are the photographic representations of Christ in particular and religious imagery in general distinctive and problematic in the modes in which they are received and perceived by the public?
Why photography has such a power to disturb when presented in a religious context?
Does the issue of icon versus likeness in photography necessitate a new and different reading of the photographic image in the religious perspective? If yes, then does such a new reading affects our perception of photography in general?