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Open Theology

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Religious Experience and Photography: The Phenomenology of Photography as Revelatory of the Religious Play of Imagination

Javier E. Carreño
Published Online: 2017-05-18 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2017-0018


That there are genuinely religious representations, and that the practice of praying with images involves no confusion of the divine with its representation, are matters firmly established by a phenomenology of imagination such as Edmund Husserl’s. Moreover, such a phenomenological regard can become attentive to the concrete roles played by a viewer’s imagination in his dealings with various sorts of images. I propose to bring these phenomenological insights to show that there is a distinctively religious play of imagination in dealing with religious images. Moreover, I address this question by turning to one kind of representation which Barthes and others have found unsuitable for representing a religious subject, namely, photographic images. While agreeing with some of these reservations, this paper explores some of the ways in which photography may still be found to represent a religious subject, shifting the problem of religious photography from its inherent impossibility to its inadequacy. In doing so, I show that the distinctively religious play of imagination vis-à-vis religious representations cuts a wedge between the depictive and the symbolic, and is rather akin to a metaphorical use of representations.

Keywords: Phenomenology; Religion; Imagination; Image; Photography


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About the article

Received: 2017-01-04

Accepted: 2017-04-13

Published Online: 2017-05-18

Published in Print: 2017-01-26

Citation Information: Open Theology, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 224–234, ISSN (Online) 2300-6579, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opth-2017-0018.

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© 2017. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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