Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Intrusive Photography?

(Disclaimer: Please do not turn this post into a negative religious debate about photography. If you do, I will delete your comment.)

I took the above photograph in the women's section of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

I think it is a touching and beautiful photograph. I especially like the little boy sitting in the window waiting for his mom. I posted it to one of my Flickr groups and a sister left the following comment:

"I think it is a speacial connection between the person and alaha we should not inteuup this realtionship"

I felt hurt when I read her comment. To be more accurate, it pushed my shame button.

When I take photographs of this nature, I usually stand a distance off, and bring the photograph nearer in the editing process. I also turn off my flash, and put my camera on "museum mode" so that no shutter click is heard. Unless someone physically sees me take the picture, no one knows it is being taken. Therefore, I don't think I was interrupting anything.

I am not a papperatzi (spelling, lol?) who sticks my camera in the faces of people. As a matter of fact, I do frequently ask people if I may photograph them in certain instances (like when I photographed the Turkish police, lol).

I believe the camera is like another "eye" in the room. It capture what I see with my own set of eyes.

Is the masjid "hands off" for picture taking?

Is it in bad taste to photograph someone while they're in prayer with their Rabb?

I think the sister's comment pushed a button in me because it reminds me of some of the criticism I have received in my writing.

I feel the same way when someone tells me what I should write or not write.

Photojournalism has always been my strength, Masha Allah. When I first became a Muslim, I gave up photojournalism until later in my deen when I became convinced that there is nothing wrong with photographing people. I came to this conclusion after examining all of the evidence from respected Muslims.

But, why not photograph Muslims in the beautiful act of communication with Allah swt?

There are so many images of Muslims involved in violence and other haraam. I think my Istanbul street photography is a refreshing change.

Your thoughts?


Stacy K. said...

I think its a very pretty and appropriate picture that really catches the feeling of the moment between the worshippers and Allah.
I hope you aren't discouraged about taking more pictures like it in the future.

Adventurous Ammena said...

masha'Allah. I think its a beautiful picture, espcially the brightness of the carpet and the light coming through the window. I take a few masjid shots myself but always from the back so I dont unknowingly distract someone from their salah. I think the sisters comment wasnt meant to hurt or shame you.. its obvious English isnt their first language, so maybe it came out wrong.. give her the benefit of the doubt.. and Im soo heading over to flickr to 'try' to add you to my list lol :D keep taking them sis.. Im curious what camera you have too :D

Safiyyah said...

JAK Stacy and A Ameena:

Thanks for your support.

Ammena; The Istanbul shots are from my two Nikon Coolpix Point and Shoots. One is a Nikon Coolpix S630 (12 mp) and the other is a Nikon Coolpix L100 (10 mp).

These cameras are great for sticking in your pocket or purse. They're fabulous for taking pics without worrying too much about settings.

Of course, I am saving my money for a digital SLR - will probably choose a Canon (also have an old Canon point and shoot).

JAK for the reminder to give my sister the benefit of the doubt. Like I said, it pushed my "shame" button. Not too hard to do with me, unfortunately.

AlabasterMuslim said...

I too think this is a beautiful photograph. And just today I took pictures of my mother praying, since its such a wonderful act. I'm still not sure if taking pictures of people is haraam or not...i'm actually leading toward the 'haraam'. But the way you took was very nice, respectful (tasteful) and I don't think in any way haraam. Mashallah, you have talent!!

zanjabil said...

I think it's a lovely and tasteful picture. It doesn't really show the face, so it's okay.

I have the understanding that pictures are okay because they are a "refection" of Allah (sw) creations. And that you should not put pictures of animate objects up in your home, but it's okay to have them.

The interior of that masjid is beautiful.

Shahirah Elaiza said...

Salam =) I love photography and this is a beautiful photo. Thank you for sharing it with us. As they say, a picture says a thousand words and this is a great example of it.

NeverEver said...

MashaAllah it is a beautiful picture.

As for me, I think it would make me uncomfortable to have my picture taken without my knowledge. Not that it disrupts the prayer, but just that my image is floating around in someone elses hands.

I have a real phobia of this since I converted. there are still pictures of me "pre-Islam" that I have no control of, so now maybe I try to "over" control, lol.

Also in the masjid it is hard to tell which women usually cover their faces outside and which don't since most women will remove their face cover in the women's section.

Anyway, if it doesn't bother the women for you to have their picture, then by all means go for it!
I can see that you have a talent for snapping at just the right moment :-) mashaAllah

Stephanie said...

I think it's totally fine especially since neither of the women are especiallly identifiable and you can't see their faces. That's just for privacy's sake. These type of photograph's are quite beautiful and I would imagine someone searching for information on Islam couldn't help but see the peace and beauty in the salah.

Unknown said...

Assalaamu alaikum sister. will those of us who dont really use Flikr, get to see some of the nice pics of turkey you took, on your blog? (hope its a yes!)


your brother,

American Muslima Writer said...

Salam dearest Saf,

Goodness knows I've run into this same dilema. To picture other sisters or not.

Some have told me (when seeing me weild my camera) "Plz don't take my picture." Most of the sisters who tell me this think it is Haram.

SOme jsut are camera shy.

Once I took a picture of my daughter and four black draped sisters walking through the dunes. They asked not to be pictured but the shot was beautiful and I got their backs so it is not identifiable (even to me and they are my friends!)

So I think it is your intention (as intention counts for anything). Is the picture breeching privacy by showing the face? Are the sisters properly covered so if they saw it they wouldn't be embarassed they had worn less than their best that day?
Etc... lots of questions to ponder really on this issue.

THis picture though is in good taste. Esp. with your spy settings on ;) It does refelct the peacefulness of Salah. I see many pictures on the net of sisters praying (google "Muslim women praying")

Hmm now if I was praying though and some sister was in the corner of my eye or in front of me obviously taking my pic without my permission while I prayed I'd be upset. Mostly because I don't know what they are going to do with the picture, and wondering if they took the pic of my bottom up in the air in Salah...

Best thing would be to inform and show the sister after or before the picture and explain your purpose.

But again be careful of pictures of sisters who normally wear niqab when they pray they might have their faces showing and get upset...general warning to all not just u Saf.

Glad to see you back hon. Will get to the rest in the next few days as I sort out things with me too :)

GOSH there IS TONS of SPAM comments lately isn't there!!! What is up with that... I dread checking comments now...

Unique said...

I wrote a huge reply but it didn't go through :'(

Some Muslims are complicated in their thinking of Islam and turn everything into 'haram'. I would ignore the sister's opinion - your photograph is a spiritual one, you don't even have their faces showing - which makes the picture soley on the act of worship in a beautiful mosque. So don't be ashamed sister, keep doing what you're doing and follow your heart.

Fadoua (鳩和) said...

Beautiful photo! This is one of my favorite in your flickr Album :). I love the reflection of lights on the carpet! To me, the photo pictures the presence of God in the prayer room.

You took the photo with good intention. Besides, you made many people happy and amazed by its beauty. This is what should matter!

wan zaharizan b wan zan said...

No nothing wrong but it would be polite to seek the subject consent as some would take it an offense but it is not wrong to capture a beautiful picture

mezba said...

Let me preface by saying I really respect you as a blogger and I really hate anonymous holier-than-thou fatwa givers on the net! :-)

But ...

I have not taken pictures inside the mosque in the middle east because some people there find it offensive. So usually, I wouldn't do it unless it's empty or there's no body in the picture. The mosque to me isn't a public space.

Safiyyah said...

Salaams and Greetings of Peace:

JAK and thank you to everyone for your comments and feedback. And welcome to the "new" readers here!

A few notes:

@ Mezba - I respect and love you, too! One thing though: in the Blue Mosque there are numerous non Muslim visitors, and they take a lot of photos. Probably the other big "famous" historical site mosques have tourists and visitors. The Blue Mosque has a roped-off area where only the Muslims can go and pray (in the front). The visitors have to take off their shoes out front like everyone else. Likewise, the visitors aren't permitted in the Women's area. Like I wrote, when I take pictures in these circumstances, I do it in "stealth mode" lol, learned after years of photojournalism. No one is aware that I am taking pictures unless they are looking directly at me.

@ American Muslimah Writers - JAK for the reminder. I DO have one shot of a sister praying with her "bottom" in the air. I will not use it.

Also, I noticed in my case, that the Spam is coming on blogs that aren't updated regularly. hint ... hint ... lol

Again ... thanks everyone!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

I definitely don't see anything wrong with it...it is such a beautiful photo, m'A :)

Hajar Alwi said...

Honestly, I always feel good seeing these kinds of photos. I love how that very moment; when we're connecting with God is captured in photographs. There's just something beautiful in it that I can't describe. However, I only take photos of people whom I have obtained their consent. :)