One day, Philipp realized: I am not an Atheist anymore. As a child and teenager he never went to church, not until his contact with a Kurdish family did he become aware of his spiritual side. Once a week, he rides his bike 30 kilometers to drink from his spiritual well – a group of Sufis.
In the four part photo film series ‘And then I became a Muslim’, Michael Hauri portrays Germans who came to Islam. This is Part I in the series.
Series Editorial Note – Antonio Marques
Religion is probably one of humankind’s earliest forms of abstract expression. Much earlier than organised religious movements, the need to believe in something bigger than man, a deity that could explain the world, is documented almost as far back as primitive forms of communication. Nowadays, a vast number of different ideologies are “available”, fuelling passion and emotions and, unfortunately for many, fuelling the great love/hate divide created solely by a religious label.
Documenting religion is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things for a photographer/journalist. There will always be shouts of partiality and biases, no matter what the story shows. That can, potentially, be the intention. Choosing a religion, independently of which, can be even more controversial – the very fact of choice seen as non-existent by many theological ideologies. In this series, Michael Hauri has done it brilliantly, not by documenting religion, but by documenting people. I would like to re-emphasize that – Hauri is showing us people, not invisible deities. People that, for one reason or other, decided to embrace an ideology that mostly resembles their own.
If we look around us, the choice of religion hardly comes from study, exploration or informed decision. Rather role models are, without a question, the principal reason for a particular choice – family, community, etc. And I use the word choice liberally because for many the word choice will have an entirely different meaning.
I was lucky enough to have come from a family background that could be seen as religious, but not for a second did they try to mould me or force me when I chose not to have a religion, and not to identify myself with religious beliefs. That is choice. As such, perhaps at some level, I can empathise with the people in these stories – choosing as individuals, saying “This is what I choose to believe”.
Unfortunately, labels still, and will, cloud the mind of many. We are now over 7 billion. I’m sure there is room for a variety of thought and ways for individuals to be seen as a person rather than as only a headscarf, or a cross, or a robe, or a kippah.
Technically, these essays excel on many levels. The mixture of still imagery with footage, both beautiful executed and complemented by a well thought and meaningful soundtrack, turn each story, independently of the subject, into art pieces by themselves. I was quite impressed by the composition of many of the images and how everything works together. Curiously, the choice of “street photography” type imagery, while somewhat unusual for a mainly videography document, makes the whole series shine.
Michael Hauri received a well deserved ‘Axel Springer Prize for Young Journalists 2011’ award for this series.