PRAYER WALK

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A revival is under way worldwide. Pilgrim numbers are rising on the roads to Santiago de Compostela, the Hajj to Mecca and at the Kumbh Mela in India. People everywhere are stepping out of their lives into the unknown to go walking. It’s a curious modern phenomenon, and one that virtually all of us can take part in. In this height of pilgrimage popularity, it is reassuring to see people taking to the road as a gesture of change, adventure, reverence and a good old lust for life. But we don’t have to travel across the globe in order to join in and express ourselves through our feet. That is partly what drew me to this series of photographs from Birmingham photographer Stephen Filer.

Stephen lives in Handsworth, one of the most multicultural areas in Birmingham, which is one of England’s most multicultural cites. A commercial photographer by trade, Stephen has been photographing Handsworth for almost half of his life. Photography for Stephen, allows him access into the more unreachable corners of his neighbourhood and offers him the opportunity to get to know his neighbours, community and in turn, himself. So recently, during Easter, he photographed a local gathering at the end of his road. His road has a church at the end of it, St Augustine’s, and on good Friday every year a procession set out along the streets of Handsworth to remember the crucifixion of Jesus. The congregation meet at St Augustine’s then gradually walk the route, passing by local businesses, and the surrounding community. Along the way the procession gains momentum, passers-by and onlookers merge with the group as they make their way on foot to the green at St Andrew’s Sports and Community Centre. After the procession reaches the final resting place of the cross, the story of the crucifixion is then told. At the end of the re-enactment, the gathering of people pause for group reflection and prayer, they embrace or shake hands, then disperse and continue on with their lives.

For me, whats fascinating about it all, is that for a brief period of time, walking had brought these strangers together. In one of the countries most racially charged hotspots, racial differences subside and people are drawn together through this simple act. Furthermore these photographs demonstrate that the most profound and touching moments can be found quite literally, at the end of your street.

You can see more of Stephen Filers work on his website here.

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