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The Believers

by Geert van Kesteren

About the project

The Believers is created by Dutch documentary photographer and filmmaker Geert van Kesteren (The Netherlands, 1966). Projected on 27 video-screens in the dome prison in Breda, The Netherlands, Van Kesteren shows religious ceremonies in Israel/Palestine next to secular ones. What are the believers looking for?

“Try to see God as the first virtual reality that man has ever created”

Based in the Holy Land, the bedrock of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Van Kesteren delves into the human agenda of faith. He examines how seek unity, belonging, and acceptance in both ancient and modern manifestations.

Believers from all over the world come to the Holy Land to participate in centuries-old ceremonies and traditions, in which their faith almost becomes tangible. It all seems light years away from the perception of the atheist Westerner. But are they really that different?

‘Try to see God as the first virtual reality that man has ever created’, says Van Kesteren. ‘Isn’t our current belief in data and algorithms just as religious?’

Recording your experiences, uploading and sharing it with others seems to be a new life goal to many, becoming part of the worldwide data-flow a new way to give meaning. Today we no longer turn to God for answers to difficult questions, but to an algorithm, a new omniscient entity.

More about the project

Marc Prüst's doctoral research at the University of Groningen focuses on the transition within the entire visual economic industry, aiming to clarify how economic value relates to social value. Developing this understanding requires a historical perspective on the economic infrastructure of non-fiction photography, the current state of this media economy, and the role and position of both professional photographers working in various fields and institutions such as galleries, museums, publishers, agencies, funds, interest groups, etc.

The results of this research will be practically translated into an annual publication, public events, and potentially webinars. Forhanna focuses on a small part of the whole, autonomous narrative photography, but deems it necessary to support Prüst in his research that benefits the entire sector. It aligns with Forhanna's mission to recognize the importance of this project, as it can provide essential insights to creators and involved parties about the structure of the photographic industry, how to act professionally within it, and gain new perspectives on possible future developments.


An impression of the audio visual installation and the project (pdf).

Project images

Short film

The photographer helps you better understand the scope and quality of this project

About the photographer

Geert van Kesteren

Geert van Kesteren worked as a war correspondent for Newsweek and Stern, among others. Amongst his most notable books are Why Mister, Why? (2004) and Baghdad Calling (2008), both focussing on the Iraq War.

His works feature in collections of leading museums, including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. He was awarded the prestigious ‘Infinity Award’ of the ICP in New York.

Geert van Kesteren made the transition from a front-line news photography to long-term documentary projects, often adopting innovative methods.

He was one of the first people to use footage of other people in times of war. But he was ahead of his time, in 2008 it cost him his membership at Magnum Photos.

Project updates

What Forhanna did

type of support: Production grant

The Believers was one of the highlights of the 2018 edition of the Dutch international photography biennale BredaPhoto. Forhanna helped funding this project and managed the production of the

12 meter-long video-installation made out of 27 video screens.

The work was exhibited in the middle of the 19th century dome prison in Breda.