1st Edition

Sacred Snaps Photovoice for Interfaith Engagement

    182 Pages 60 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    182 Pages 60 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Sacred Snaps tells the story of a new approach to interfaith engagement. It is an invitation to see and engage religion, diversity, and inclusion through the lens of the mobile phone camera. These days, just about everyone owns a camera equipped smartphone. What if we recruited these cameras for the common good? When religion shows up in everyday life—at work, school, the mall, or the beach—often it is not welcome. At a time when so much of the public discourse is around equity, diversity, and inclusion, religion seems peripheral to important conversations about belief and belonging.

    Many embrace the wisdom that our workplaces, schools, and communities are enhanced when people can bring their whole selves into every aspect of their daily lives. But religion and spirituality are not gaining the same ground as other aspects of diversity such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and ability. To be more fully included in the cultural conversation about human flourishing, religion needs to be seen and heard in new ways. The old paradigm of interreligious dialogue is no longer adequate. A new paradigm focused on building relationships at the grass roots of daily life is emerging.

    This cutting-edge volume brings together Christians and Muslims in the United States and Canada to explore what their beliefs, practices, and values look like in everyday life.

    Introduction | “Doing what I can in my little world.” An Invitation to Interfaith Engagement

    Part I: Grassroots Interfaith Engagement Through Photovoice

    1. “It’s just not a lens I had.” Seeing and Being Seen in a Time of Polarization

    2. “I’m a big photo nut.” Our Approach

    3. “That’s a game-changer!” Interfaith’s New Paradigm: From Dialogue to Engagement

    Part II: Religion and Spirituality in Everyday Life

    4. “I’m not the only crazy person.” Seeing Nature Through Religious Lenses

    5. “I want that.” Prayer and the Power of Appreciative Knowledge

    6. “They ask me if I’m oppressed.” Religion, Gender, and Sexuality

    7. “Ask someone else to do it.” Race, Religion, and Social Inequalities

    8. “My faith tugs at me daily not to look past.” Compassion and Responsibility in the Face of Poverty

    Part III: From Snapshot to Engagement

    9. “Like a call to action.” Curating Voices and Exhibiting Change

    10. “It gave me a forum.” Photovoice as an Interfaith Contact Zone

    11. “How other people see it.” Seeing Differences within Religions

    12. “Now I’m back in my world.” The Shelf Life of Interfaith Interventions

    13. Conclusion | “It was theirs after that.” Interfaith Dialogue in Action


    Roman R. Williams is founder of Interfaith Photovoice. He is a visual sociologist and consultant who combines photography and sociology for intergroup and interfaith engagement.

    Catherine Holtmann is the academic chair of the Religion and Violence Research Team at the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Centre for Family Violence Research, Professor, and Chair of Sociology at the University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada.

    William Sachs is an Episcopal priest with decades of parish service. His experience has included doctoral study at the University of Chicago in modern religious history, as well as occasional stints as a college and seminary teacher. He is also a prolific writer who has published eleven books and more than two-hundred articles, reviews, chapters, and essays.

    ‘This book will open your eyes—to the often-overlooked presence of sacred times and places in everyday life, to the possibilities opened up by that ever-present camera in our pockets, and most of all to the common ground that can be found when ordinary people of different faiths show each other what their life of faith looks like. It is a brilliant exploration that is as solidly theoretical as it is excitingly practical.’

    Nancy T. Ammerman, Professor Emerita, Boston University, author of Studying Lived Religion: Contexts and Practices

    ‘Sacred Snaps showcases the many features of interfaith dialogue—that it breaks stereotypes, gives resilience to pluralism, and deepens participants' own commitments—with a twist. It does so through everyday experiences with the use of new technologies. As a creative method for grassroots engagement, blending visual sociology with structured dialogue, photovoice enhances religious literacy by transforming ordinary experiences into extraordinary ones.’

    Mahan Mirza, Executive Director, Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion and Teaching Professor, Keough School of Global Affairs, University of Notre Dame

    ‘This important new book provides interreligious practitioners with a user-friendly methodology for meaningful engagement across differences. The authors do so without losing sight of what is central to this work: people. Individual and communal relationships will always be at the heart of the interreligious movement. Roman, Cathy, and Bill help us think anew about how to cultivate, nourish, and sustain relationships in our interconnected and interdependent world.’

    Or Rose, Founding Director of the Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Interreligious Learning and Leadership, Hebrew College

    ‘In an increasingly polarised world, Sacred Snaps is an illuminating exploration of how photography can be leveraged to build connections through everyday interfaith engagement. Using an innovative application of photovoice, this book re-imagines the way we perceive and discuss religion and can use images to foster empathy and understanding. By inviting individuals to capture and share moments of spiritual significance in their daily lives, Sacred Snaps reveals how we can explore our differences and discover what links us all, regardless of faith. This original interfaith photovoice method roots religion in tangible, lived experiences. In doing so, it provides a much-needed roadmap for building bridges between faiths and promoting dialogue at a time of divisions. The book is a must-read for anyone interested in interfaith relations, visual methods and committed to building a more inclusive world in which our differences are viewed as a source of unity rather than division.’

    Tiffany Fairey, Senior Research Fellow, Kings College London

    ‘Sacred Snaps is an important and grace filled book that explores a new approach to interfaith engagement. Using photographs as a means of both artistic expression and personal encounter, this approach enables participants to stand in each other's shoes in a very existential way. Utilizing the mobile phone camera, each participant is invited to see through the other's eyes so that individuals from different faith traditions might understand one another more deeply. Sacred Snaps examines this exciting and creative approach to interfaith conversations at a time when constructive conversations are needed more than ever.’

    Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of the Washington Cathedral

    ‘In Sacred Snaps, Williams, Holtmann, and Sachs proffer an innovative study of grassroots interfaith engagement in pluralistic US and Canadian environs through the lens of photovoice. Exploring political polarization, race, socioeconomic inequality, gender and sexuality, and more, their work offers a compelling picture of myriad embodiments of religious and spiritual life.’

    Celene Ibrahim, Faculty Member and Chaplain, Groton School, author of Islam and Monotheism and Women and Gender in the Qur'an

    ‘I suspect many readers will find these photographs and the stories around them humbling in that they take the reader into the hands and minds of ordinary religious insiders. This book shows us how people literally frame and story their worlds. Not only does this help uncover new features of the people and communities that interest us, but it also demonstrates the value of ubiquitous technologies such as smart phones for the study of religion.’

    Paul Bramadat, Professor and Director, Centre for Studies in Religion and Society, University of Victoria

    ‘During a time when cameras increasingly exacerbate our divisions and amplify narcissistic impulses, photovoice represents a new way of looking at ourselves from the outside in and within the webs of our relationships with others. Indeed, the book demonstrates that tiny but powerful cameras on our phones can be repurposed to help us bind together, which is one of the meanings of religion. By seeing others, we see ourselves and the many threads that connect us, thus augmenting our self-consciousness and galvanizing our bonds with those different from us. Photovoice holds much promise in revolutionizing the study of religion and society. I do not know many scholars or practitioners who have perfected such a cutting-edge tool as the authors of this book.’

    Mohammed Mohammed, Senior Program Officer, Fetzer Institute

    ‘In a time when more Americans and Canadians than ever before have access to cameras on their smartphones, and when religion and politics can seem more polarized than ever, the authors of Sacred Snaps have introduced their innovative photovoice project. Based in three cities and drawing on Christian and Muslim participants’ photos, interviews and Williams, Holtmann and Sachs’ observations and theories on ecumenism and lived religion, the project’s contents were clearly meaningful to its participants. Sacred Snaps masterfully weaves together participants’ stories and photographs with scholarly content. I would recommend it to folks working in/on ecumenism, scholars of lived religion in Canada and the US, and to all readers interested in evocative stories and images.’

    Jennifer A. Selby, Professor, Memorial University

    ‘I’ve witnessed the power of photovoice to help bridge the world's deepest divides. Sacred Snaps makes a compelling case for how smartphone photography and structured dialogue can nurture interfaith understanding. The wisdom and the stories of hope that you will find in these pages are what we need now more than ever. Read it, be inspired by it, take it into your communities, and imagine a better future together.’

    John Sarrouf, Co-Executive Director, Essential Partners

    ‘Sacred Snaps demonstrates that sociology can be a force for good. This accessibly written book is a wonderful example of applied visual sociology. It offers a novel and compelling approach for building a common vision for the common good in the workplace, organizations, communities, and beyond.’

    Brian Grim, President, Religious Freedom and Business Foundation

    ‘We need these tools in our businesses, universities, and communities. Sacred Snaps presents a framework that can help us see each others’ dignity across our differences. Building on the truth that we are all better positioned to contribute in our many contexts when we can live according to our personal beliefs—be it at work, in educational contexts, or our communities—and recognizing that religious expression manifests itself everywhere, the frameworks and experiences presented in this book offer tools to better understand each other and build bridges across religious difference in everyday contexts, and in a time when we need it most.’

    Paul Lambert, Director, Religion Initiative at the Wheatley Institute, Brigham Young University

    ‘As this book illustrates very well, people who participate in photovoice for interfaith dialogue will discover a dynamic relationship between similarity and difference as they share photos, experiences, concerns, and stories and become acquainted with the person behind the camera. The photos, captions, and stories shared in the book provide a window into the value of interfaith dialogue at multiple levels, including the personal, and show how interfaith photovoice exhibits can become calls to action for greater understanding and positive change. The book’s conversational style and real-life stories will encourage people doing important interfaith work to envision photovoice projects of their own.’

    Laura Lorenz, Co-founder of Photovoice Worldwide and Visiting Research Scholar at Brandeis University