Everyone loves a good love story, but for those in interfaith relationships, partnership can come with some barriers.
In a new photo series by Toronto-based documentary photographer Colin Boyd Shafer, the INTERLOVE Project, capture portraits that reflect the true reality of the city's diversity and how love true comes in all faiths and races.
"Interfaith relationships are not as common, and provide a whole new set of issues and stories to be told," he tells the Huffington Post Canada. "I also am aware that interfaith is not an overtly visual topic, and that in itself makes it challenging and interesting to try and use photography to share these stories."
While interracial couples may be accepted in modern day Canada, some communities find them and interfaith relationships to be cultural taboos. Statistics Canada reports mixed-race marriages grew 33 per cent between 2001 and 2006, according to The Province. However, it is important to keep in mind, Canada's multicultural population also grew in those years.
Couples who come from two different backgrounds may deal with family pressures and organize double wedding ceremonies. And sometimes, as Shafer's project points out, worries can surface as to how children are brought up.
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The project, which is a bit of an offshoot of Shafer's last project called Cosmopolis Toronto (where he captured photos of Toronto's diverse citizens), is currently looking to raise $15,000 to continue the INTERLOVE Project outside of Ontario.
Currently, Shafer is looking for couples of all faiths and no faiths in Ontario who are willing to share their personal stories.
"For each couple I am photographing them in a place where they both feel comfortable, and are expressing their affection for each other in a way that feels natural," he says. "Then I am taking a portrait of each of them looking into the eyes of their lover."
Below are some of Shafer's current entries:
"Sahar and Alvaro met during their first semester while doing their Master’s degrees at York University. There was initial confusion and concern amongst their family and friends – specifically about how they would manage to have a 'normal' relationship when coming from such different cultural and religious backgrounds. Their families worried about how they would be accepted in society and what would happen to their children.
"Alvaro and Sahar enjoy going to libraries and bookstores because they both love to read and share the same tastes in literature, focusing on politics, history and world religions."
"Alvaro attends church occasionally and describes himself as a believer, who is not a fan of rituals and traditions. He was born in Colombia to a Catholic family and attended a conservative mainstream Catholic school."
"Sahar is a practicing Muslim from a Pakistani family and grew up in the United Arab Emirates. Both her parents gave Sahar a religious upbringing, but they were only 'moderately' religious themselves."
"Calder and Zalman met in 1997 while working together for an international youth exchange organization. Their relationship developed at a distance, but in 2000, they decided to travel to Canada’s east coast, and this was the first time they lived together. Through many long conversations and uneasy moments, they found that their love was strong enough to allow them to create space for each of their beliefs.
"A farmhouse near Creemore, Ont., is located just up the road from where they first met. This photograph was taken on a fall weekend when they were celebrating both Rosh Hashanah and the Autumn Equinox with family and friends. In front of the farmhouse is a beautiful pond, where they often swim."
"It was in university that Calder began to explore Pagan-based spirituality. She was raised in a Roman Catholic home with an Ukrainian Orthodox influence. As a teenager she left the Roman Catholic church because of many unanswered questions with her faith."
"Today Zalman is involved in both the Secular Humanist and Reform Jewish communities. He was raised in the Reform tradition with an orthodox father and a mother from a Secular Humanist Jewish background."
"Craig and Amanda met at work in early 2013. Amanda noticed Craig’s determination and drive to overcome any challenges he faced. She describes him as an 'ideas guy' who was always thinking how he could make 'gold from dirt.' It caught her off-guard – and she enjoyed how he challenged her opinions. Still, Amanda explains how a relationship consisting of one person who ultimately believes in a God and one who does not, presents challenges in everyday life.
"When Craig moved to Toronto from Jamaica, he used to drive to High Park to keep his soul and body in harmony. One of the first things Amanda noticed about Craig was his attraction to tranquility. Amanda explains how lying in Craig’s arms has a calming effect on her."
"Amanda considers herself a staunch atheist within the neo-Darwinist spectrum. She rejects all concepts of theism, and sees religion as a system of beliefs that has been used throughout history to manipulate, control and ultimately hold societies captive. Growing up in a Roman Catholic context, Amanda remembers being very confused when her elementary school held services inside the school’s library."
"Craig believes strongly in God and considers himself spiritual without having to rely on regular church services to prove his devotion. Anglicanism was very central to his Jamaican upbringing due to that country’s history of British colonization."
"Heather and Jordan met almost six years ago while working at a bookstore. They consider themselves open-minded, liberal people, so their challenges come less from themselves, and more from their respective families. The pressure exerted by their families with regards to raising their future children within their respective faiths is often a source of anxiety for both of them.
“'Sometimes Heather and I feel as though half of our relationship revolves around our passion for food,' explains Jordan. He loves to cook and she loves to eat. Toronto’s St. Lawrence market is a regular stop for them on Saturday afternoons – a place they go to plan their platter of delicious eats for the evening."
"Heather still celebrates the main religious holidays and attends church when she is with her family. She was raised in a Catholic home and attended Catholic school."
"Jordan attempts to preserve his family’s traditions, observe holidays, and keep kosher as a daily reminder of this heritage. He was raised in a Jewish home that 'bridged the gap between conservative and orthodox beliefs.'”
"Annie was teaching in Malaysia at an international school when she met Sunder. Although they are of different faiths, they were married by a Muslim woman. This is symbolic of who they are and how they respect all religions. They explain how, although religion is not a big part of their relationship, it does influence the values they impart on their children. It is part of their cultural heritage, and they want to continue to present both Catholicism and Hinduism to their two children.
"Toronto’s Cherry Beach is where Annie and Sunder enjoy spending time with their family during the summer. It is a great place to have a barbecue, soak up the sun, and spend quality time with their children."
"Sunder is a practicing Hindu. At home in Malaysia, he always had an altar with deities to which his family prayed, and they occasionally went to the temple."
"Annie identifies as a Catholic. Growing up in Ottawa in a French Canadian home, Annie went to a Catholic school and regularly attended mass."