FaithWorld

from Photographers' Blog:

The man with the coconut and the GoPro

Lalitpur, Nepal

By Navesh Chitrakar

Rato Machhindranath is the god of rain, so huge crowds gather in Lalitpur around a 32-meter (104 foot) high tower mounted on a chariot during the chariot festival in an effort to ensure good rains and prevent drought.

The highlight of the day is when someone climbs to the top of the chariot and throws a coconut to devotees below. This is an ancient ritual thought to guarantee the catcher of the coconut the birth of a son. Few people believe this nowadays and I think participation is more about enjoying and preserving the tradition.

Every year I saw the same man climb atop the chariot. Every year he threw the coconut down towards the devotees. I really wanted to show in pictures what the perspective of this man looked like.

This year I started searching for him as soon as I reached the chariot and there he was in his favorite spot, up at the top. I could not call him down, as he was sitting so high and the sound of the drums was too loud. I waited for him to come down.

Finally, the man I was waiting for came down. I was very happy to see him descending. He reached me and I introduced myself to him and asked for his name. I was shocked to learn that this man who I had been shooting pictures of for years could not speak. I wanted his help to shoot the picture I had planned and even though my challenge was growing tougher I didn't give up. I smiled and grabbed his hand to get his attention. He smiled back at me. Once again I tried to ask for his name and he led me to another person who knew him and they told me his name. It was Chakala Dangol and he was 75-years-old.

from Photographers' Blog:

Baby-kissing Popes

By Max Rossi

There's a man in this world that kisses more babies than any mother over the course of her life: the Pope.

Following the Vatican for more than 15 years I can absolutely say that John Paul II and Benedict XVI have kissed more babies than any other public figure in the world. It's a common scene for the faithful to literally throw their babies to the Pope as he walks by or is driven by in the Pope mobile during general audiences or a pastoral visit.

Having a child blessed and kissed by the Pope is an unbelievable goal for a mother or father. And for a photographer it's almost always a good shot especially when the baby is not so "old". A newborn is totally unaware of what is going on but when a one or two year-old child is given to the Pope something brilliant can happen.

from Photographers' Blog:

Exorcism in the Andes

By Jaime Saldarriaga

I first learned of exorcist Hermes Cifuentes, better known as “Brother Hermes,” through the local news media. His exorcisms fascinated me, so I decided to find out more. Many people are against what he does, but when I tracked down his phone number and called, he invited me to visit his retreat in La Cumbre, just north of Cali.

SLIDESHOW: MODERN-DAY EXORCISM

Brother Hermes is a very religious man. As we spoke he wore a white tunic and held a crucifix in his hand. His retreat is a farm with a small chapel filled with Catholic icons. The place is very peaceful, with hens, pigeons and rabbits roaming. He tells the people who look to him for help that they shouldn’t believe in him, but rather in the power of God.

It was only after I arrived that he told me he had two exorcisms to perform that same day, and that I could observe. We hiked up to the highest part of the farm, where there were two women dressed in white with their skin painted black, stretched out inside large rings drawn on the ground. The scene affected me deeply.

from Photographers' Blog:

A heavenly mission

By Lisi Niesner

The wooden gate was half open. I knocked on the door and entered. The room was sparsely lit. Everything in the unexpectedly small workshop was black or grey and the few things that had been colorful in past days were now soot-black. The smell of iron was dominant.

Blacksmith brothers Johann and Georg Schmidberger stood at their workplaces. They did not look up. Smith's dirty hands rhythmically led down the hammer to a strike. The beats were powerful but with a gentle accuracy. This was a seriously cool scene.

The welcome was friendly but reserved and there was no introduction on how to behave in a blacksmith’s workshop where the iron is heated to 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit). There were no precautions at all. Carefully I stepped back and forth inside the workshop in order not to disturb. Hammers and tongs in all sizes were piled on each other next to plenty of pieces of metal in all conceivable shapes. Between all those tools and metal items, I absolutely could not even name, I felt like an intruder.

Family, Taliban scare off actresses in Afghan film industry

(Afghan film actress Nafisa Nafis puts on make-up at the sets of a television series directed by Saba Sahar in Kabul June 7, 2011/Ahmad Masood)

A young bride silently sobs on the floor watching her mentally disturbed husband gorge on chicken, rub his greasy hands through his hair and scream at her for more, just another chapter in the couple’s violent life together. Film director Saba Sahar anxiously watches the scene by the cameraman, squatting in blue jeans and wearing a bright pink headscarf. “Cut!” she calls.

The first Afghan female in her profession, Sahar, 36, has become a household name after acting and directing for more than half her life. She is adored by Afghan women. Like other Afghan directors, Sahar says finding actresses is her top challenge in an ultra-conservative Muslim country where many view acting as un-Islamic and inappropriate for women.

Women brave social barriers to join Afghan police force

(Afghan policewomen search women at a polling station in Herat, western Afghanistan September 18, 2010/Raheb Homavandi)

Married off at 12 years old to an abusive husband more than four times her age, Maryam wanted to join Afghanistan’s police force to help others avoid an all-too-familiar plight in a country where women’s voices often go unheard. A mother of three, Maryam is one of the women who make up less than one percent of Afghanistan’s National Police. They wear knee-length olive green skirts over thick trousers with navy hijabs.

The 22-year-old’s eyes light up when she talks about her job, one widely viewed in deeply conservative Muslim Afghan society as off-limits for women. This sentiment is shared by her father, who has stopped speaking to her and moved out of the family home because she works in an office with men who are not relatives.