For many people, religion can be a sensitive subject and in today’s society your faith can sometimes be tricky to broach in conversation. In relation to the creative industry, it would feel limiting to identify as a ‘Christian photographer’ or a ‘Buddhist graphic designer’, but of course there are creatives whose faith is a part of them and even their practice.
To find out more about how religion can sometimes enhance, empower and inspire creativity, we spoke to a range of creatives whose religion and faith varies from being an integral part of their work to simply being a part of their values system.
“I personally don’t use the word religion or religious when I describe myself,” says UK-based photographer John Boaz. “I see myself as a man of faith seeking spiritual truth and freedom in Jesus and trying to navigate my way through this complicated thing called life. But if you have to label it then I would say I am a Christian.”
Boaz states his approach to Christianity goes back to the simplicity of following Jesus and loving those around us. The photographer was brought up in a Christian family, and while he grew up feeling like there was a higher power, he wasn’t really interested in religion in his early teenage years. “I had been through some heavy stuff in my childhood which affected me badly and I had a lot of inner anger and hurt,” explains Boaz. During these years the photographer felt confused about his faith but he eventually re-found it. “When I was 18, I was prayed for by some of my peers and I had an incredible spiritual experience,” Boaz says. “In that moment my inner self and life changed dramatically for the better.”
Faith means everything to Boaz and he prays and meditates most days. “It has definitely helped me in terms of creative blocks with my photographic work. Both in inspiration for ideas or just being able to de-stress and re-focus,” he says. “With a lot of my work I like to bring focus and attention to light and the way it tells a story. Often I see a connection between light and spirituality.”
This can be seen in Boaz’s project Our Father, a documentary series of the monks and nuns of the UK monastic communities that are still active today. “Our Father also explores the beauty in the hope, love and mystery of faith in Jesus,” he explains. “As a whole this series aims to be rooted in a mixture of both visual observation and meditation, seeking to document these communities with sensitivity and respect.”
The series is a mix of portraiture, still life and observations, and so far it’s the biggest project Boaz has worked on that’s been inspired by his faith. His understanding of Christianity allowed him to approach the topic, and those featured within the series, with thought and meaning.