“Worldviews: Ritual -1983-2006”: David Katzenstein Captures the Beliefs and Practices of Diverse Cultures

New York-based photographer David Katzenstein has travelled to five continents over a period of 30 years, both on assignment and for personal projects. He organises his rich and voluminous portfolio into four categories: “The Human Experience”, “The Urban Landscape”, “Performance” and “Politics and Protest”. The projects under these include documentations of flea markets in China, a concentration camp near Prague, the Russian film industry, the rhythms of Havana and the recent Women’s March on Washington.

One of David Katzenstein’s most stunning and powerful initiatives is a collection of about 60 black and white photographs shot between 1983 and 2006 titled “Worldviews: Ritual”. This work of poetic realism explores the daily lives, beliefs and practices of many diverse cultures. The visual travelogue takes us to lands near and far. Some of the subjects covered are: Hindu ceremonies in rural India, Zulu dancers in South Africa, Easter processions in Guatemala, Buddhist festivals in Bhutan, Islamic ceremonies in Egypt, Jewish worship in Israel and shamanism in the South Pacific islands of Vanuatu.  

The moments of revelatory experience are frozen for the viewer. As we go through the images, the astonishing variety and essential unity of human life come to the fore. We all have a love for community, we realise, a tendency to adhere to some kind of shared meaning that can help us coalesce and co-operate with each other. Also, many of us have a certain impulse to mystically transcend our quotidian activities and access a denser, perhaps eternal and infinite, order of reality.

The photographer is fascinated by the people he meets and deeply respectful of their ways. He neither judges nor heroicises his subjects; instead he searches intently for their souls. His camera can be confrontational or invisible, but he is always sensitive to subtleties of character and human relationships.  Even his landscapes are spiritual explorations, placing the viewer in unknown lands.

David Katzenstein began taking pictures at age eight and hasn’t stopped since. The turning point in the development of his “vision” was a gift of The World of Henri Cartier-Bresson (a collection of the famous French photographer’s work) when he was 18. David writes: “Cartier-Bresson’s ability to capture the decisive moment became my greatest influence and I became determined to combine my keen interest in diverse cultures with my strong desire to become a photographer.”

Links: Website (www.davidkatzenstein.com) | Instagram (www.instagram.com/davidkatzenstein) | Blog (davidkatzenstein.wordpress.com)

Email: david@davidkatzenstein.com

Images used with permission.


Family Praying – St. Louis, Senegal (2004). © David Katzenstein


Buddhist Ceremony – Thimphu, Bhutan (1999). © David Katzenstein


Royal Dancers – Kingdom of Bafut, Cameroon (2005). © David Katzenstein


Trance Dancing – Cairo, Egypt (1998). © David Katzenstein


Zulu Dancers – Zululand, South Africa (1990). © David Katzenstein


Sufi Dhikr – Istanbul, Turkey (2001). © David Katzenstein


Krishna Widows – Vrindavan, India (1995). © David Katzenstein


Samba Dancers – Tokyo, Japan (2002). © David Katzenstein


Festival of the Carthaginians and Romans – Cartagena, Spain (2005). © David Katzenstein


Candle Lighting – Colombo, Sri Lanka (2006). © David Katzenstein


Easter Procession – Jerusalem, Israel (2006). © David Katzenstein


Procession – Cuzco, Peru (1984). © David Katzenstein


Dancing Hasidim – Brooklyn, New York (1988). © David Katzenstein


Henna Hands – Udaipur, Rajasthan, India (1995). © David Katzenstein


Easter Celebrations – Chichicastenango, Guatemala (1988). © David Katzenstein


Two Diablitos – Abakua Plante Ceremony – Matanzas, Cuba (1990). © David Katzenstein


Village Elders – Ambrym Island, Vanuatu (1993). © David Katzenstein


Pilgrims – Pushkar, Rajasthan, India (1995). © David Katzenstein


Buddhist Monks Praying – Nanjing, China (2004). © David Katzenstein


Morning Prayers – Fatehpur Sikri, India (1995). © David Katzenstein


Village Festival – Tang Valley, Bhutan (1999). © David Katzenstein


Praying at the Western Wall – Jerusalem, Israel (1996). © David Katzenstein


Wedding Dance – Rajasthan, India (1995). © David Katzenstein


Nation of Islam Rally – New York City (1996). © David Katzenstein


Funeral Party – Rajasthan, India (1995). © David Katzenstein


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