Prayer in Sioni Cathedral, Tbilisi, Georgia.
Fujifilm X-Pro2, 16mm lens, 1/45 second @ f1.4, ISO 400
Should we take photographs inside churches, mosques and temples? And if we do, should we take photographs of people at prayer? I'm actually a little apprehensive about the different viewpoints people will have, but hopefully I can summarise my response as follows: It's okay if it is allowed and if you show respect.
This is Sioni Cathedral in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. I will post another photograph of the incredible paintings and artworks that decorate the walls and ceilings in another post - it is a magic place in which to take photographs. There is a sign outside saying no flash photography and I think that's a good thing because flash would indeed be intrusive on the parishioners. And of course, flash will generally kill the mood which I like to think I have captured in this image with available light.
On one of our visits, a member of the clergy came out and said since they were about to take holy communion, would we mind stepping outside for a while, but we would be welcome back again in half an hour. A similar approach was taken in the Blue Mosque in Istanbul when I was there a few years ago. I think this is very reasonable and I'm happy to comply.
Many of the more popular churches and cathedrals around the world don't allow any photography and in terms of crowd control and their priority for the parishioners, I can understand why. I think it's a pity, but as one priest explained, his church gets more complaints when they allow photography from their parishioners, than from photographers complaining they can't take photos.
So, if you get a chance to photograph in religious places, I suggest you be discrete. Don't interfere with other people and respect their privacy. Most of my photos do not show faces, although I'm not sure Cartier-Bresson would agree with me there. But unless I'm invited to photograph someone at prayer, there's something telling me to leave them in peace.
Perhaps I'm more sensitive than I thought!