Images of Paganism
Like religion, paganism is a worthwhile theme worthy of recognition and of being recorded in photographs. There has been a lot of misconceptions and misunderstanding relating to paganism.
To some is a religion, a way of life which holds mother nature as the most important part of this life choice, to others it refers to non-believers, or even to those not of the Christian faith. Therefore, the first order of business is to offer a typical description of the term that will form the basis of the photo project:
"The term pagan is from the Latin paganus, an adjective originally meaning "rural", "rustic" or "of the country." As a noun, paganus was used to mean "country dweller, villager." Wikipedia
"Both "pagan" and "heathen" have historically been used as a pejorative by adherents of monotheistic religions (such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam) to indicate a disbeliever in their religion; although in modern times it is not always used as a pejorative. "Paganism" frequently refers to the religions of classical antiquity, most notably Greek mythology or Roman religion; and can be used neutrally or admiringly by those who refer to those complexes of belief. However, until the rise of Romanticism and the general acceptance of freedom of religion in Western civilization, "paganism" was almost always used disparagingly of heterodox beliefs falling outside the established political framework of the Christian Church." Wikipedia
So now that we more or less understand what the term paganism signifies, then a good start to a photographic project can commence. Your images should be approached almost the same ways that one would approach photographing a religious topic. Focus on images that relate to a certain belief in a higher power, attitudes, customs and lifestyles and represent these to an audience. Keep in mind that paganism is mostly a way of life than anything else, so images of lifestyles and customs, particular clothing styles become even more important if you want to represent this theme as realistically as possible.
If you choose to represent this theme as the first definition; that of a country rural dweller in scope, then living style; how they live, where they live, what their daily routine revolves around, household scenes, typical work and clothing should be the points of emphasis. Try to capture the essence of what distinguishes these individuals from city dwellers.
If however you decide to focus on the religious connotations associated with the term, then local customs and rituals should be your points of emphasis as well as some of the particular festivals commonly practiced by those associated with the life style. Record images that depicts any rituals, beliefs. gatherings, costumes, any customary body decorations or amulets as well as particular tools.
Be very aware and understand that in the mind of some people paganism is a synonym to witchcraft, however, this is not what is intended with this project. Our focus is on the two basic aforementioned definitions. This theme most closely reflects what is commonly known a Wicca and Wiccans, as those who follow this way of living are typically referred as.
Be particular and objective with your subject selection. There are many similarities to various other styles of living and religious practices.
Aim to record the best representations of paganism that you can find. If an audience does not clearly identify the image as being of a pagan theme, then you run the risk of your images being associated with other subject matter and the intend of your work is lost in confusion and misinterpretation.
Do some research into the typical tools, lifestyle, customs and practices so that it enables you to better recognize good subjects to photograph.
Since most of these practitioners have been shunned by a large portion of the community, being sensitive to their needs can be the key that allows you to either be permitted to record images or not.
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© 2011 Luis E Gonzalez