Good Friday Procession – Church of the Holy Sepulchre


procession – Jerusalem, Israel  2006

A procession leaving the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem on Good Friday.

To view a portfolio of photographs about ritual click here

© David Katzenstein


America the Beautiful



“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Emma Lazarus – 1883

© David Katzenstein

Edge of Humanity Magazine Features Mexico



children – Oaxaca, Mexico

@EDGEofHUMANITY Magazine features portfolio of photographs from Mexico.

To view the article click here

© David Katzenstein

Edge of Humanity Magazine Features Rituals



A selection of photographs from Katzenstein’s longterm project World Views: Rituals is being featured in the current issue of the online magazine Edge of Humanity.

To view the article click here

© David Katzenstein

Article Published in CC: Magazine – July 2013

A Sacred Journey
Photographer David Katzenstein captures a Muslim pilgrimage in Senegal

It started with a leap of faith.

Photographer David Katzenstein met Cheikh Fara Gaye, a Sufi Muslim, at a New York City prayer-for-peace event in 2003. Sufism is the mystical tradition of Islam, and Gaye is a disciple of Mouridism, a Sufi sect centered in his native Senegal.

Katzenstein, who wanted to explore positive aspects of Islam in the post 9/11 environment, asked Gaye to accompany him on the Magal, the sect’s annual pilgrimage to the city of Touba.

“He said, ‘I’ll meet you in the airport in Dakar next year,’” Katzenstein told a Connecticut College audience in February.

A year later, Katzenstein was on a flight to the capital of Senegal, wondering if this man he hardly knew would remember his promise. “Then someone tapped me on the shoulder,” Katzenstein said. “He was on the plane with me.”

An exhibition of Katzenstein’s photos from their trip entitled “Islam in Africa: A Pilgrimage to Touba,” was mounted in Cummings Arts Center this spring alongside another Katzenstein exhibition called “World Views: Ritual and Celebration in Global Culture.”

For decades, as both a commercial and fine art photographer, Katzenstein has been drawn to capture daily life and communal rituals around the globe. He has documented Hindu ceremonies in rural India, Santeria rituals in Cuba, Zulu dancers in South Africa, Easter processions in Guatemala, Buddhist festivals in Bhutan, Islamic ceremonies in Egypt and Jewish worship in Israel.

With Gaye’s help, Katzenstein also has been documenting the large community of Senegalese immigrants who live in New York City, in a section of Harlem known as le Petit Sénégal.

Mouridism is a sect that emphasizes religious ritual, study of the Koran and the value of hard work. It was founded in Touba by Cheikh Amadou Bamba. The Magal commemorates Bamba’s exile by the French colonial government in 1895 and culminates at his burial site under Touba’s great mosque.

Katzenstein and Gaye, now close friends, gave a joint lecture at the College on Feb. 13.

“These people in Africa are looking at you, and you are looking at them,” Gaye said of Katzenstein’s photos. “This is the magic of art. It’s between the hearts of people, bringing them into one humanity.”

Katzenstein works in a “reportage” style of photography inspired by the French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. Using a wide-angle lens, he stays close to his subjects to avoid objectifying them. He does not crop or otherwise manipulate his images after he takes them.

“The challenge for me is to capture something in the world as a moment, and also to have it be artistically complete,” he says.

See more of David Katzenstein’s work at

Connecticut College Magazine

Exhibition Gallery Talk


Exhibition Gallery Talk

I gave a gallery talk at Connecticut College for my two exhibitions: Islam in Africa: A Pilgrimage to Touba, Senegal, and World Views: Ritual and Celebration in Global Culture

Islam in Africa: A Pilgrimage to Touba, Senegal


Exhibition Featured in Hartford Courant


Islam in Africa Lecture Poster


The exhibition Islam in Africa: A Pilgrimage to Touba, Senegal opens to the public tomorrow at Cummings Art Center, Connecticut College, New London. The lecture is scheduled for February 14 @ 4:30pm.

Notice of upcoming exhibition: Islam in Africa

CC - IslamCard

ISLAM IN AFRICA: A Pilgrimage to Touba, Senegal

On Monday, January 28, 2013 the exhibition will be opening at Cummings Art Center at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut.

The photographs included in this exhibition were selected from a larger body of work that explores the annual pilgrimage ‘Le Grand Magal de Touba’, located in central Senegal. Katzenstein was originally introduced to the Magal through a short segment of the documentary series The Africans that aired on public television in 1986. He learned that for three days each year Mouride (a Sufi brotherhood based in Senegal) pilgrims from all over Senegal and the world congregate in the town of Touba to commemorate the exile imposed by the French colonists on the founder of the brotherhood, Cheikh Amadou Bamba. During the Magal the population increases from approximately 400,000 to over 4,000,000. It is West Africa’s equivalent to the Hajj.

Katzenstein’s project began in New York City in 1987, where he met and photographed the life of local Senegalese street vendors. Later in that same year he traveled to Touba during the time of the Magal and stayed with families of the young men he had befriended in New York. The trip was very successful, but he had remained an outsider in Touba and yearned to have more access to the inner workings of the Mouride brotherhood.

Fast forward 16 years to 2003. In October of that year Katzenstein was introduced to Cheikh Fara Gaye at a prayer for peace event in New York City (he is a Mouride cleric from Senegal who is now based in Philadelphia). In the aftermath of the events of September 11th there were a lot of misunderstandings about Islam in general, and he was searching for a way to explore different facets of the religion in a positive way. He approached Cheikh Gaye that evening with the proposition of traveling together to the next Magal in the spring of 2004, and to his surprise his invitation was accepted. Katzenstein’s goal was to delve deeper into the rituals of the holy city of Touba with Cheikh Gaye’s help and guidance, and to explore the positive aspects of Islam. It was to be a remarkable journey for both of them, and the photographs presented here are a testament to their successful collaboration. The exhibition takes us on that journey. We begin with the physical journey from Dakar to Touba. This four hour trip by car expands to up to 15 hours immediately preceding and during the time of the Magal. Vehicles cram all the roads leading to the sacred city, causing gridlock and accidents, but the excitement and joy of the pilgrims never seems to diminish. Many travel to Touba by train. The local station, which is tranquil during the rest of the year, teems with arriving visitors, and often scores of young boys wait anxiously for the next influx of pilgrims.

The Mouride spirit is evident everywhere throughout the sacred city as pilgrims visit sacred sites where Cheikh Amadou Bamba once roamed. The Baye Fal serve the community by publicly displaying their love for Allah, and they also take on the roll of overseeing traffic control throughout the city. Poetry, song and dance abound. Markets spring up on every thoroughfare, selling a wide variety of items both religious and nonreligious. Visits to the compounds of Cheikhs’ and Maribouts’ take up much of the pilgrim’s schedule. The Magal is a time of great joy for all who participate.