Why do Germans become Muslims? What makes non-believers or Christians convert to a religion that is worshiped in a language they mostly don’t understand and that has traditions that have little in common with our cultural roots?
The German media frequently reports on the growing number of conversions to Islam. This is an issue that fascinates as much as it provokes anxiety. In the media, Islam is commonly described as “the Other.” From this point of view, it does not come as a surprise that the growing number of conversions irritates and worries people. In spite of the growing interest in this issue, there is no reliable source for the number of conversions in Germany, mainly because this is a very private process that can be executed without official procedures.
In this photographic dialogue with converters, I would like to reflect on the visual representation of Islam in the Western media and on how easily a biased standpoint is established. Through imagery reminiscent of Western art history, I would like to escape from the observer’s common point of view and instead offer a discourse in imagery. Everyday situations and items—objects that have dramatically changed their meaning for the converters—are represented as still lifes in order to make the observer aware of the ambiguity of symbols in the media. This leads to the basic questions at the core of this project: does an iconographic representation of Islam exist? And if so, how is it possible to analyze and present this iconography?
Editors’ note: Another series by Darjes, “Being Queer, Feeling Muslim,” will be shown at FORMAT17, an international photography festival held in Derby, UK. This year’s edition runs from March 24-April 23, 2017, exploring the theme of HABITAT through varied narratives and imagery that document the worlds around us. Through the end of FORMAT17, we will be sharing some of our favorite photographers from the program. LensCulture Editor-in-Chief Jim Casper will also be on hand to review portfolios. We hope to see you there!