In his series Besides Faith, Italian photographer Louis De Belle (1988) looks at the crossroads of commerce and religion. Every two years, there is a world fair for church supplies in the northeast of Italy, which draws more than 13,000 people of the clergy and international religious industry. Stocked with clergy apparel, liturgical items and cult objects, the fair serves as a meeting place for bored salesmen and busy nuns. Faith, through the objects associated with it, becomes a commodity to be bought, sold, or haggled over.
De Belle in particular was drawn to the grey area between the ‘sacred’ and ‘profane’, and how one’s perception of sacredness might change, when religious items are seen outside of their typical holy context. Far from materialising with divine intervention, the objects are shown to have rather mundane origins, and we are confronted with the question of asking at what point the objects used in rituals and ceremonies acquire their spiritually significant properties.