Photographing Christian Religious Art in India

A copper relief of Jesus Christ, in an idyllic setting, on St. Thomas Mount in Chennai, India.

I love photographing religious artwork. I’d say that I’m drawn, pretty much, equally to stained glass windows in a Christian church as I am to a Buddhist statue or mandala. And Hindu temples have their own, very powerful allure.

Create Great Beauty When You Paint With Light

While the story being explored is interesting it’s the compositional elements (e.g., color, shape, texture) within the work and the luminosity contained that attracts my attention.

It’s that sense of light that seems, somehow, to point to the transcendent nature in all things that I find most compelling.

To be able to make great photos it’s important to understand what our medium of expression is all about.

The word photography comes to us from Ancient Greek.

  • Photo translates as light

  • Graphy translates as writing, drawing or painting

Photos are, therefore, vehicles by which we use light to document our world and to explore the mysteries that exist on the edge of our understanding.


What's Matters Most, Belief Or Experience?

Let me state that again. The scenes depicted are interesting, as is the historical and cultural significance of the religion associated with the artwork in question.

But it’s the transforming and transcendental nature of the light that brings me as close to religious observance as I’m likely to get these days.

My point is that you do not have to be religious to be spiritual. As the saying goes

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience;
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.
— Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Each of us has to find our own way through this life. The fact that we may feel the need to explore, challenge and even move away from the belief system determined for us by our family and the society we grew up in may be a necessary part of our own personal journey.

Where we end up is what matters most. And many of us end our journey not all that far from where we started, albeit with more clarity and purpose.

All Those Years Ago, South Park Street Cemetery, Kolkata, India

About To Travel?


My Search For The Beautiful On Saint Thomas Mount

The photo at the top of this post is, quite obviously, an idealized scene of Jesus surrounded by young children.

The artwork is on a large copper sheet on one of the walls of the St. Thomas Mount National Shrine on the outskirts of Chennai in India.

I was immediately drawn to its luminous quality and could see, in my mind’s eye, that by rendering the work into black and white that the shapes and textures would be emphasized.

The photo was processed in Adobe Lightroom and then brought into Adobe Photoshop for a few final touches and a literal sprinkling of fairy dust.

A crowd watching the night sky on the steps of the beautiful St. Thomas Mount National Shrine on the outskirts of Chennai, India

How The Photos We Make Can Change Over Time

Over the years I’ve photographed a great deal of religious artwork, most of it in Asia. Up until recent years photos of statues, temples and murals were as significant in my portfolio as landscape and portraiture.

In fact photographs of religious artwork largely underpinned my Masters in Art (photography) which I completed in the mid 90’s.

As so much of that early work was film based I can only add it to this site a little at a time. I have a huge scanning project ahead of me during 2019.

So, in addition to lots of new projects, you can expect to see film based images from as far back as the early 90’s appearing on this site, from time to time, over coming years.

Introducing My Photographing Cemeteries eBook

To see much of my most recent religious artwork, in context, you should check out my Photographing Cemeteries eBook. It features cemeteries on five continents and includes a range of technical and opinion based essays that explore the process behind the project.

It’s very much the artist’s journey written to help you find your own creative path in life. I’m sure you’ll find it both information rich and highly inspirational. And please, let me know what you think.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru