Photographic Practices and the Making of Religion
Universität Leipzig, Institut für Kunstgeschichte
Leipzig, November 25– 26, 2022
Deadline to apply: July 15, 2022
Within the growing ﬁeld of photography studies, particular interest has been devoted to the social and
material qualities of photographs through which practices and meanings are produced. However, less at-
tention has been given to the ways in which these qualities of photographs interact with and aﬀect the
sphere of religion. e aim of the conference is to investigate this relationship by showing that not only
the visual information in photographs, but also their multi-material, sensorial, and haptic features play
an important role in the shaping and transformation of religious communities, practices, and cults.
Ever since their introduction in the 19th century, photographic images have been used in religious con -
texts. Photographs of cult images, martyrs, religious leaders or pilgrimage sites circulated in both West-
ern and non-Western religious traditions, including Buddhist, Christian, and, within limits, Muslim
traditions. Despite their opto-chemical nature, which distinguished them from traditional means of im-
age production, they were quickly integrated into the respective religious cultures, where they could
serve diﬀerent purposes. As devotional objects, photographs were not only looked at, but also touched
and kissed; as part of religious rituals, they were treated with holy substances or relics, turning them
into powerful agents of divine authority which could perform miracles. At a commercial level, they be -
came collectible items, which were produced, marketed, and often collected in personal albums. More-
over, vernacular photographs were used as votive oﬀerings at religious sites, allowing visitors to leave a
physical trace of their presence in time and space. At the same time, photographs of religious phenom -
ena were also treated as documentary and scientiﬁc evidence. Labelled with descriptive terms, classiﬁed
according to knowledge systems, and ﬁled in image archives of academic institutions and museums,
they created stereotypes and, even now, contribute to the othering of religious traditions.
In recent years, various disciplines have drawn our attention to the importance of material, emotional,
and social practices for the shaping of religion. Authors such as Elizabeth Edwards and Janice Hart
(Photographs, Objects, Histories, 2004), Daria Pezzoli-Olgiati (Religion in Cultural Imaginary, 2015),
Stephanie Downes, Sally Holloway, and Sarah Randles (Feeling ings, 2018), and David Morgan (e
ing about Religion, 2021), have analyzed the way in which material objects such as photographs not
only interact with religious practices and experiences but often create them in the ﬁrst place. Following
these methodical approaches, the conference seeks to clarify the role of photography in the making of
religion from the 19th to the 21st century. Researchers, archivists, and doctoral students from the ﬁelds
of photography studies, art history, postcolonial studies, anthropology, religious studies, and other disci-
plines are invited to submit a paper.
Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
- How was the introduction of photography discussed in theological contexts?
- How can the conception of photography as trace, impression, or index be read within the history of
- What was the relationship of photography to other forms of visualization and what kind of
instructions for its use were provided?
- Who produced, sold, or collected photographs of pilgrimage sites, religious events, or encounters?
- What materials and techniques were used to manipulate and amplify photographs, especially with
regard to coloration, collage, or retouching?
- In which ways was photography used for the othering of religious communities and what role did it
play in the history of evangelization and colonization?
- How does digital technology change the use of devotional photographs?
- is event is currently planned as a face-to-face event in compliance with Covid-19 protection
measures; remote participation might be possible upon request
- Call for papers deadline: July 15, 2022
- Successful applicants will receive a notiﬁcation by August 15, 2022
- e ﬁnal program will be communicated in September 2022
- e papers can be held in English, German, or Italian
- e papers, illustrated by a slideshow, should be no longer than 20 minutes
- It is possible to contribute towards the transport and/or accommodation costs of speakers
- e publication of the conference proceedings is planned for Autumn 2023
How to submit your proposal
- Write an abstract in English of approx. 500 words
- Include a short CV and your contact details, specifying whether you prefer to participate remotely or
- E-mail to email@example.com