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Photography

Through a Blur of Migratory Birds, Photographer Sankar Sridhar Captures the Rituals of the Yamuna River

July 2, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images © Sankar Sridhar, shared with permission

When Dehli-based photographer Sankar Sridhar visits the Yamuna River in winter, he observes hundreds of gulls, terns, and other birds as they flock to the Ganges tributary that flows through the Indian city. Despite the river’s inability to maintain a thriving ecosystem in that stretch, the avians are spurred by site fidelity as they migrate each year, a ritualistic act Sridhar recently captured in a series titled Long Live the River.

Because the tributary attracts such an influx of avians, it’s also a site of religiosity and legend. People travel to the water to feed the birds, an act thought to bring good karma, and disperse offerings for their loved ones who’ve died. “My approach to documenting life along a small stretch of this river was driven by the deep connection of rivers and life and divinity in Hindu texts, mythology, and legend. The fact that the Yamuna is considered the only river with the power to grant immortality to humans seemed an irony that could not be overlooked,” the photographer says.

Fifteen drains of untreated wastewater from household, municipal, and industrial sources flow into the tributary, saturating it with chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, and garbage that eliminate aquatic life. However, Sridhar notes that in 2017, officials recorded 24 bird species residing in the river’s wetlands. “This finding came as a surprise, given the greatly degraded water quality of the Yamuna,” he says.

Using a low shutter speed, Sridhar captures the annual rituals through clouds of Dehli’s thick smog, blurring the flying creatures as they swoop over the water. The obscured visitors mar clear shots of boats and the horizons as they appear to linger above the water in shadowy flocks. “I aimed to impart a surreal touch to the images by using the boats as the fabled transport into the afterlife while flight-paths of the birds as metaphors —as much for the souls of the dead as the mad chaos in our world that blinds us to the damage we do to the environment,” he says. “Throughout, though, the river remains a giver of life, despite having the life sucked out of her.”

An avid outdoor photographer, Sridhar shares his projects focused on Himalayan landscapes and local communities on Behance and Instagram.

 

 

 



History

Page Through This Incredibly Detailed Sino-Tibetan Book Printed in 1410

June 24, 2020

Grace Ebert

All images courtesy of Incunabula

An ancient-book collector is offering a rare glimpse into a Sino-Tibetan book that’s believed to have been printed as early as 1410 in Beijing. A self-described bibliophile known as Incunabula, the collector shared a thread containing dozens of images showing inside spreads full of red ink drawings and Ranjana script, a writing system developed in the 11th century. The Gutenberg Bible, which was printed with movable metal type, dates back to 1454, nearly 45 years after this woodblock-produced text.

Within its accordion-fold pages, the ancient book contains impeccably detailed “Sanskrit dhāranīs and illustrations of protective mantra-diagrams and deities” and a collection of Tibetan Buddhist recitation texts. It has more durable, black covers that are covered in gold-paint drawings featuring “20 icons of the Tathāgatas,” which roughly translates to “one who has gone.” All text is printed twice on each side of the paper to allow for right-to-left and left-to-right readings in both the Indo-Tibetan and Chinese styles, respectively.

“During the early Ming, close relations were established between Tibetan monks and the imperial court in Beijing. Although not directly part of the Buddhist canon, this work relates closely to the manner of woodblock carving employed for the production of the Sino-Tibetan Kangyur,” the collector writes.

Check out more of the inside pages in Incunabula’s thread, and follow the collector’s archival work on Twitter. (via Open Culture)

 

 

 



History Photography

Striking Photographs Capture Ornate Patterns of Historic Iranian Mosques and Palaces

December 30, 2019

Grace Ebert

All images © Fatemeh Hosein Aghaei, shared with permission. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran

Iran-based artist Fatemeh Hosein Aghaei takes mesmerizing photographs that showcase the intricate patterns inside the country’s ancient buildings. The artist mostly features mosques in the Iranian city of Isfahan, which is located about 250 miles south of Tehran and is known for its Perso–Islamic designed structures, boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, tile-filled mosques, and minarets. In her photographs, Hosein Aghaei often looks upward to frame the building’s domes and arches complete with complex colorful designs, sometimes even adding glimpses of the city’s blue skies. The artist tells Colossal that she wants her work to capture and share the beauty of Iran’s historic architecture. Keep up with Hosein Aghaei’s captivating images on Instagram.

Sheykh Abdussamad Mausoleum

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque in Isfahan, Iran

Dowlatabad Garden of Yazd

Ali Qapu Palace of Isfahan, Iran

Jameh Mosque of Isfahan, Iran

Emam Mosque of Isfahan, Iran

Agha Bozorg Mosque of Kashan

Agha Bozorg Mosque of Kashan

 

 



Design

A Gigantic Buddha Statue Emerges from the Top of a Hill in Japan

August 3, 2017

Johnny Waldman

Unless otherwise noted, all photographs by Shigeo Ogawa.

Normally a cemetery wouldn’t be on our list of recommended sites to see, but the Makomanai Cemetery is one of the most awe-inspiring places we’ve ever been. Located in the outskirts of Sapporo, a large stone Buddha occupies the sprawling landscape. All 1,500 tons of it has sat alone there for 15 years. But when the cemetery decided they wanted to do something to increase visitor’s appreciations for the Buddha, they enlisted architect Tadao Ando, who had a grand and bold idea: hide the statue.

Photo by Hiroo Namiki.

“Our idea was to cover the Buddha below the head with a hill of lavender plants,” said Ando. Indeed, as you approach “Hill of Buddha” the subject is largely concealed by a hill planted with 150,000 lavenders. Only the top of the statue’s head pokes out from the rotunda, creating a visual connection between the lavender plants and the ringlets of hair on the Buddha statue’s head.

Upon entering, visitors are forced to turn left or right and walk around a rectangular lake of water before entering the 131-ft (40-meter) long approach tunnel. The journey is a constant reminder of the weather, the breeze and the light, and is works in tandem to heighten anticipation of the statue, which is only visible once you reach the end of the tunnel.

Any time of the year, visitors will have a different experience. The 150,000 lavenders “turn fresh green in spring, pale purple in summer and silky white with snow in winter.” It really is a miraculous work of environmental art. (Syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)

Photo by Hiroo Namiki.

Photo by Hiroo Namiki.

 

 



Art History

16th Century Miniature Boxwood Carvings That Fit in the Palm of Your Hand

January 3, 2017

Kate Sierzputowski

Photo by Craig Boyko

Carved the size of a palm or smaller, these miniature boxwood carvings featuring religious iconography from the early 16th century have long been a mystery to researchers in the field. It is believed that the entire body of work was created during a 30-year window between 1500 and 1530, somewhere in Flanders or the Netherlands.

The tiny altarpieces, rosaries, and prayer beads are each produced from a single boxwood fragment, incorporating pins smaller than a grass seed that hold the pieces together. Using micro CT scanning and Advanced 3D Analysis Software, curators and conservators of Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures an exhibition at The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in collaboration with the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Rijksmuseum have gained new insight into the materials and subject matter of each boxwood carving.

Small Wonders: Gothic Boxwood Miniatures will showcase AGO’s collection along with 50 other loaned pieces from other museums and private collections, including some rare carvings that have never been seen in North America. One work, the eleven-bead Chatsworth Rosary (c. 1509-1526), was owned by King Henry VIII and his wife Catherine of Aragon. You can tour the full exhibition yourself at the AGO through January 22, at the Met Cloisters on February 21, 2017, or when the exhibition makes its last stop at the Rijksmuseum on June 15, 2017.

You can also follow AGO on their journey to discovering the mystery behind the boxwood miniatures in the video below, as well as see detailed images from the entire collection on AGO’s website. (via The History Blog)

Photo by Ian Lefebvre

Photo by Craig Boyko

Photo by Ian Lefebvre

Photo by Craig Boyko

 

 



Art

New Text Drawings Formed by Letters From Religious Texts by Meg Hitchcock

September 6, 2016

Kate Sierzputowski

MegHitchcock_06

It’s been awhile since we’ve written about Meg Hitchcock‘s work (previously), first covering her practice in 2011 when she spent 135 hours gluing tens of thousands of individuals letters from the Koran to transcribe the Book of Revelation from the Christian New Testament. Hitchcock continues to produce religious-based text works that dissect the word of God, discouraging her audience from a literal reading by ignoring punctuation and spacing in the sentences she forms. Recently her text drawings have become a bit more figural, forming feet, scarves, and niqabs on paper with thousands of sourced letters.

“The labor-intensive aspect of my work is a meditation practice as well as an exploration of the various forms of devotion,” said Hitchcock in an artist statement. “A long history in evangelical Christianity formed my core beliefs about God and transcendence, but I later relinquished the Christian path. I now gravitate toward Eastern Mysticism, and am deeply moved by Islam. My work is a celebration of the diverse experiences of spirituality and the universal need for connection with something greater than oneself. In the end, the holy word of God may be nothing more than a sublime expression of our shared humanity.”

Hitchcock’s work is currently presented in the group exhibition “This is Not a Book” at the San Jose Institute for Contemporary Art through September 11, 2016. (via Booooooom)

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