In one of many trips to the Philippines, Australian photographer Dave Carswell was fascinated with the overt placing of religious symbolism.
In much of the secular western world, overt displays of religious symbolism are often rendered pointless and in certain areas even frowned upon. It’s an attitude that, for better or worse, many of us have grown up with and are accustomed to. When Australian photographer Dave Carswell was soaking in the local atmosphere of the Philippines, he was blown away by the permanency and overt placing of such strong religious symbolism in the form of tattoos.
“Outside of Mindanao, Catholicism plays an extremely pivotal part of everyday life for most Filipinos,” Carswell tells LYFSTYL. “If you look an the reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus to the cross and the massive Black Nazarene procession as examples of where Filipinos are literally willing to die for their devotion.”
With a population where 92% of the population identifies as Christian (81% as Catholic), the Philippines is Asia’s only country to be predominantly Christian – and with great pride. Christianity was introduced to the Philippines as early as 1565 and has remained a central aspect of Filipino lifestyle through the centuries. Despite miserable economic conditions for many in the country, their faith serves as a force of unification and hope, spanning social classes and statuses.
“For many people, faith is one of the few things they have and something that has welcoming irrespective of material wealth,” Carswell tells LYFSTYL. “Religion is one of the only things they have. Their faith represented a strong ally that provides for them when their politicians do not.”
Despite the church’s resistance to the introduction of the Reproductive Health Bill, as well as its meddling in significant health work by NGOs are examples of religious ideals taking priority above health, education and life expectancy, Carswell’s work is not meant to criticize or make a comment on the actions of the Church. Instead, he aims to simply bring attention to the overwhelming sense of pride among millions of Filipinos who are more than willing to display their religious beliefs so overtly. This feeling of sheer conviction, confidence and hope perfectly exemplifies the local communities in its own way. A wonderful insight, regardless of your stance on religion.
Words by Braeden Alexander – Explore more of Dave Carswell’s work here.