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Six National Geographic Photographers Look at the Heart of Faith

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Girls wearing cloaks prepare to march in a Good Friday religious procession in Lessines, Belgium on March, 29 2013.

“Faith is an oasis in the heart which will never be reached by the caravan of thinking.”—Khalil Gibran

The news of Pope Francis’s visit to the U.S. inspired me to invite our photographers to share their personal images of faith. I was looking for photographs that might go beyond religious subjects and include any spiritual moments when they felt connected to a force larger than themselves. I wanted to encourage them to contemplate the questions of what they believe and what inspires them. What I see in these images is the communion they felt with the people they photographed and the powerful ways in which it moved them. —Elizabeth Krist, Senior Photo Editor

For a behind-the-scenes look at the Vatican, read the story “Will the Pope Change the Vatican” in the August 2015 issue of National Geographic magazine.


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A boy helps an elderly woman across a footbridge in the Ethiopian village of Lalibela, 1994. Photograph by David Guttenfelder
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Figurines of Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy, on the rocks beside Hong Kong’s Aberdeen Harbour, 2011. Photograph by Mark Leong

Hong Kongers are pragmatic: There is a need to believe in something, and that need is met. In the cracks and corners all over this hypermodern city, holding it together are shrines, fortune-tellers, coils of incense, money for the dead, and, yes, little porcelain goddesses who share their survival skills with fishermen—and with the occasional photographer dodging waves. Mark Leong

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Ajaran landslide victims spend their last hour at home before eviction. Batumi, Georgia, 2006. Photograph by Rena Effendi

When I walked in with a camera mounted on a tripod, nobody moved—they gave me a silent approval. There was an otherworldly motionlessness, as though a special force kept everything still, almost a ready-made picture. I stood with them in the same tunnel of silent tension, where only the ticking of the clock was audible. Often, in moments like this, I feel the presence of a higher power, something I cannot control, yet a positive spirit that protects or enables the photographic process. Rena Effendi

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Shwedagon Temple, Myanmar Photograph by Michael Yamashita
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My niece (left), on a new suspension bridge. Wuri, Taiwan, 2003. Photograph by Chien-Chi Chang
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Girls wearing cloaks prepare to march in a Good Friday religious procession in Lessines, Belgium, on March, 29, 2013. Photograph by Tomas van Houtryve

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