The British social documentary and portrait photographer releases 'Congregation,' her second photography book portraying the rarely-documented spiritual worship of African South Londoners.
It was one fateful Sunday Service that led Sophie Green to embark on a two year long project to immerse herself in London’s Aladura Spiritualist African “white garment” church, a South London community grounded in Aladura, a denomination of Christianity predominantly practiced by Yoruba Nigerians.
“One Sunday I stopped a lady on the street and complimented her on how wonderful she looked and asked if she would mind if I walked with her to her church and if I could join the service for the day,” Green told Document. “I was intrigued by what drew her to the church. Both she and the rest of the congregation welcomed me in—I then watched the seven hour service in awe. Hundreds of white robed men, women, and children were singing, dancing, and clapping to the beat of the drum, praying spontaneously in unison and following prayer from the service leader. I was entranced by this powerful display of their commitment to a faith, it was amazing to see people uniting through such a simple but obviously very moving and joyful shared experience.”
It is this profound endurance and expression of faith—along with collective identity, power within subcultures, and assimilation in modern global contexts—that Green explores in Congregation. This beautiful new 104-page book engages the dynamic unity religious practice can foster, through captivating images including church-goers in brilliant white dresses stopping at an ice cream truck and portraits of congregation members, from the very young to the very old. This sacred convening amidst the bustle of 21st century industrialism and modern technology underscores the sense of community that characterizes Southwark’s Aladura congregation. The borough has the highest concentration of African churches outside the continent, and white Christianity is in decline, faith is rising among black Londoners.
“I want to acknowledge how important it is that this West African diaspora community has the means to remember and celebrate their cultural identity. Generations pass their faith and practices down the line but at the same time are integrated within their modern day surroundings. Southawk’s Aladura churches create a sense of belonging, connection, and community for so many African families and individuals—this felt like something to express and celebrate.”
Congregation by Sophie Green is published by Loose Joints. Congregation will be launched on April 25, 2019 at Hannah Barry Gallery in Peckham, London.