Rod Sainty was introduced to the arid interior of Australia as a boy in a series of epic road adventures. Those experiences inspired him to become a mineral exploration geologist seeking deposits of copper, lead, zinc, silver and gold. The quest for a mineral discovery often took him to lonely rocky ridges far from the nearest town. The focus became the rocks around his feet and the subtle clues those rocks might offer to the quest. Over time, other questions arose: Who else had stood right here on these same rocks? And how had those rocks and the arid landscape beyond shaped their view and understanding of the world?
Perhaps the arid landscapes of Australia prepared Rod for a later encounter with Islamic architecture.
While driving through the arid landscape of southeastern Turkey in 2012, Rod arrived at the ancient city of Urfa, said to be the birthplace of Abraham. The Halil-ur Rahman mosque, built in 1211, moved him deeply. It seemed strangely well-suited to that desert place. Intrigued, Rod needed to investigate further. What yearnings did its architectural form seek to fulfil? And how did this mosque compare to others more broadly? Rod decided to investigate Islamic architecture by undertaking a photographic survey across different regions.
Rod started his survey with Persia, completing two journeys through Iran in 2014 and 2015. Travelling independently with a large format camera, lenses, tripod and sheet film was challenging. In 2016 and 2018 he completed three solo journeys through Morocco, then travelled to Tunisia to photograph the Great Mosque of Kairouan, the template for all others in North Africa. Its minaret, built in 724, is the oldest in the world. Plans to continue the project in 2020 were thwarted by the pandemic, so Rod is eager to extend his coverage into other regions in 2022.
Rod has adopted the perspective of formal architectural photography. He seeks to represent the building or monument cleanly and accurately while highlighting its key themes and motifs. He hopes that his photographs might aid the appreciation of Islamic architecture, provide some insight into the world of Islam, and encourage respect and conversation between people of differing cultures.
Prints on archival materials available on request.