I’ve recently bought myself a new single lens reflex camera, and I’ve been itching to try it out. So I went down town to photograph the young Catholic pilgrims that have come to Sydney for World Youth Day.
Let me state right now that I’m not a religious person, and that I’m not anti-religious either. I wanted to photograph the pilgrims, because I knew that they would be colourful subject matter due to the fact that many of them had wrapped themselves in their country’s flags, and it would be interesting to document the phenomenon.
I have to admit that my preconceived ideas, led me to believe that I could go and look at the pilgrims dispassionately as though they were just some picturesque folk who follow some anachronistic dogma rather than decent people with deeply held beliefs.
On the television news, I had seen a few reports showing the pilgrims playing music and it all looked a bit lame. So when I went down to Hyde Park near St Mary’s Cathedral in downtown Sydney it came as quite a surprise to me, how much I enjoyed the music and watching the people dance to it.
As I was watching a Spanish group of pilgrims playing the guitar and singing while about 50 people danced in a circle around them, a young neatly dressed Spanish woman came up to me and told me in broken English, that she was part of that group and that she wanted me to know that Jesus loved me the way how I was. I have a standard reply that I tell such people so that I don’t get involved in some long and tedious discussion about the Bible. I always say, ” thank you, I know”. That always puts a smile on their faces, and they leave me alone because they think I’m one of them. All the same, it did it gave me a warm feeling that someone wanted to share some joy.
Strangely enough, later on, I found myself thinking about why she had said what she had, to me, and the thought occurred to me that maybe because I was unshaven and sporting the generally unkempt look that I cultivate, she might have thought I was some kind of bum, full of despair and she wanted to up-lift my spirits.
This thought occurred to me because I know that in Europe most people take pride and care in the way how they look and they tend to dress a lot more fashionably and neatly than many people here in Australia. To compound matters, I tend to dress even more casually than most other Australians. I can imagine that many of these straitlaced young Catholics from Europe must think we’re so poor here, because so many of us just don’t bother spending that much money or time and effort on our grooming. Sydney is a generally a very relaxed and casual place, and many people have transcended the need to dress up all the time.
In my travels to various parts of the world I have seen series of painted statues on display in cities. In Denver, USA, a couple of years ago there were differently painted fibreglass cows, all over town as part of a series called “cow parade”. In Vancouver, Canada there are painted orca all over the place. The cows in Denver, were quite interesting, but the orca in Vancouver were lame, lame, lame!
Here in Sydney for World Youth Day, much in the tradition of the cow parade, there are Jesus Christ statues all over town that have been painted in various ways. I found that most of the painted Jesus Christ statues weren’t very well done, but I did find one that I thought was fantastic.
Covered in mirrors, this statue was called “Reflection”.
I suppose it is trying to communicate that we should reflect upon the life of Jesus Christ and the Scriptures. As I looked at this mirrored statue, I found myself thinking about how we as human beings tend to project our own concerns on the world. Although the Bible says God created man in his own image, I have a sneaking suspicion that man created God in his own image, and the mirrored statue seemed to be a metaphor of how our religions reflect who we are and how we see our place in the world.
Not very far from the reflection statue was a group of Filipinos who are being led in song by a Spanish priest, who played the guitar.
The priest had a beautiful voice, and the Filipinos sang along with him with a result that wasn’t as polished but not too different to the video below.
If the city of Sydney is to be inundated with large crowds of people from overseas, you really couldn’t pick a better bunch than young Catholics. So very different to the hooligan English soccer fans that plague continental Europe every year.