Religion Private and Public
Liz Hingley, Under Gods
Book Review by Mick Gidley
Published by: Dewi Lewis
These 40 colour photographs open with a view down the Soho Road as it leaves Birmingham city centre. The vantage exaggerates the road’s surface and its featurelessness. This is the locality as seen by someone driving through, who may not know the Soho Road as the multi-ethnic area captured in succeeding photographs. The next image, of guests at the annual Birmingham Faiths Forum dinner, also readies itself to be undercut: the leaders of religious groups – recognisable by such insignia as crosses and yamulkas – constitute, with the mayor in his civic regalia, a comfortable-looking ‘establishment’, whereas the people to be met later inhabit less privileged spaces. The theme is not just ethnicity (itself too often reduced to ‘colour’ and ‘diversity’) but, as Liz Hingley states, what faith, in its many guises, "can bring to everyday inner-city life".
Elizabeth Edwards aptly speaks of Hingley’s "anthropological turn", which allows her to show that religion involves both exterior expression – in buildings, ceremonies, and symbols – and, crucially, interiority. Indeed, whatever viewers’ own beliefs, the most affecting images – the Muslim woman praying by a fallen tree, or Mrs Little’s home communion, or the disabled Hare Krishna devotee, seen from behind, privately chanting – at least intimate the inner solace of religion.