Congregation by Sophie Green is a celebration of Southwark’s Aladura Spiritualist African churches and congregations. Often referred to as “white garment” churches, Green’s images engage with rarely-documented dynamic communities who unite each weekend for Sunday service.
Aladura is a denomination of Christianity predominantly practised by Yoruba Nigerians, and in the last 40 years has become a ubiquitous part of London life – particularly in Southwark, which has the highest concentration of African churches outside the continent. Congregation observes a rich tapestry of worshippers and Sunday services, which are spoken in Yoruba and form a key social meeting point and place of cultural solidarity between African Londoners.
Congregation asks questions about how individuals find collective identity and power within subcultures, and how cultural practice is assimilated into modern global contexts: traditional dress, food and customs rub up against modern technology and fashion, while devotional interiors colourfully fill the hidden, often industrial spaces that churches inhabit. Green also engages directly with individuals through collaborative, posed portrait sessions and photographic workshops, which serve to empower and engage with members of each congregation and their faith, while highlighting the performance of identity and communality that underpins religious practice.
Congregation was published by Loose Joints in 2019. Edition of 700, 30 colour & 25 duotone plates, 106 pages, hardcover with embossed silk cover, 17.5 x 22.5 cm, £27.00. You can buy the book here.
About the Artist
Sophie Green is a social documentary and art photographer based in London. Her photography is a spontaneous, intuitive reaction to the ordinary; celebrating the idiosyncrasies and eccentricities of the human experience.
In a world full of unique individuals, her work largely explores aspects of British culture and rarely-documented communities and subcultures who are drawn together by shared identity or mutual circumstance. She strives to seek out the glue that unites these individuals together as a collective; leading her to explore the realms of Aladura Spiritualist African churches and congregations, afro hair salons, banger & stock car racing, streetcar culture, arm wrestlers, British cowboy culture and travellers.
Curious to push the boundaries of traditional social documentary practice – Green likes to play with a balance of spontaneous documentary realism combined with stylised constructions. Merging portraiture and still life images – she is drawn to the details that surround her subjects as a way of revealing a deeper story of person and place. Colourful, graphic, and sometimes humorous incidentals punctuate the compositions heightening their resonance.
Green engages directly with the individuals she photographs through collaborative, posed portrait sessions that serve to empower the subjects, providing a platform to tell their story. She believes that trust and respect are fundamental to the process of creating an emotional and revealing portrait. Many of her projects develop over several years in order to honour the subjects’ lives and portray them truthfully through images and text.
Photographic storytelling is a powerful tool through which we can record, share and communicate ideas. She aspires for her photography to positively encourage a connection and understanding between the viewer and the subject.