Peter Sanders was born in London in 1946. His professional career in
photography began during the mid-sixties where he photographed most of the
major stars in the music business including Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors,
The Who, the Rolling Stones etc. Towards the end of the 1970’s, Sanders’
attention turned inward which set him on a spiritual search to India and then eventually to the Muslim world where the spiritual beauty of Islam left an
indelible impression upon him. After his return to England, he embraced Islam
and was given the name Abd al-Adheem. In 1971 he was granted the unique
opportunity to photograph the rituals of Hajj or annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. These images appeared in the Sunday Times Magazine, The Observer, among many other
major journals in recognition of their rareness.
For Peter Sanders, faith and photography have both been
part of his spiritual development. It was his search to capture the essence of
reality that led him to Islam and, with camera in hand, to the door of the
Kaaba. From photographing the most famous of idols in the music industry to
the most sacred places in the Islamic world, Peter Sanders’ journey encompasses
more than a change of focus for his camera lens.
“Having photographed almost every famous person in the
music industry I got bored and started getting in to spritual things. I just
wanted something else, and so I decided to go to India. I packed everything up
and went, looking for a teacher. Eventually I found one, who was basically a
Hindu but had a lot of what we consider ‘Muslim Qualities’. I studied with him
for about six months and when I cam back to England, some of my friends had
become Muslim. Then there were other friends who had gotten heavy into drugs
and alchohol. It was as if God was saying to me, ‘which direction do you want
“I didn’t know very much about Islam but I had dreams
and various other things happened to me. So I made a decision to become Muslim
without knowing too much about it. I was 24 years old at the time and within
three months of becoming Muslim, I decided to go on Hajj. I didn’t have the
money but I just made the intention. My elderly Muslim teacher at that time
had also made the intention and I knew that I wanted to go too. Someone gave
me a ticket and I went. It was at the Kaaba that I learnt that my teacher had
died on the way.”
At the time, back in 1971, photographs of the Hajj were quite
rare. Peter Sanders was granted special permission to photograph the sacred
places; a decision that still amazes him. “It was pretty unique for a
Westerner to have taken pictures of the Hajj. I had to sl;og from offices to
offices in Jeddaj and Makkah and eventually I found a man that had the
authority to grant me permission. A lot of people didn’t want to take responsibility
at the time, and they were generally not too keen on photography anyway,
especially by a convert. But this man was in a position to authorise me and he
did so purely on trust.”
For Peter Sanders, photography is essentially a means to
capture the spirit of Islam. As he describes his efforts to do this, the words
of an Urdu poet come to mind: ‘To see the reality of Madinah you need more than
just sight; you need vision’. As if seeking to possess this vision is not a
great enough mission in itself, Peter Sanders attempts to then convey it to
others. He has spent the last thirty years documenting the remains of
traditional Islamic societies that are fast disappearing from the earth. One
of his ongoing projects in trying to capture dying traditions has been the
compilation of a photographic album of the great scholars and saints of our
time. The two volumes, that he hopes to raise funds to publish, include
pictures of people who were photographed for the first time and some of whom
have passed away in recent months and years.
About Peter Sanders
Peter Sanders, internationally recognised as one of the
worlds leading photographer of the Islamic World.
The photographer began his career in the mid-1960’s
covering Londons’ seminal rock and roll scene, capturing now legendary music
icons in a collection that is considered a classic by collectors.
Towards the end of the 1970’s, Sanders’ attention turned
inward which set him on a spiritual search that took him to India and led him
in the end to the Muslim world. All the while the photographer captured his
surroundings on film, creating a striking and disparate record of the last
vestiges of traditional Muslim societies in transition. Sanders’ own deep
commitment to and love of traditional Islamic culture has brought him into
intimate contact with people and places few photographers reach.
“My photography has always been an extension of my life,”
he said. “Photography is a wonderful process - a gift from God - that has
allowed me to learn so much about myself and the world around me. Its like
chasing a moment, trying to capture a beautiful bird in flight.” “The
photographs are extremely, extraordinarily beautiful,” claims Japanese Art
Critic, Tsuyoshi Kawasoe.
“One should not under-estimate the importance of Peter
Sanders’ work,” said American writer Michael Sugich. “He is the only
photographer working today who has systematically and with great devotion to
the task, covered vast areas of the Islamic world as an insider. Because of
his deep understanding of the culture and his impeccable spiritual courtesy, he
has been able to photograph places and people that virtually no western photographer
would be able to access. He has left an indelible, poetic and ravishing record
of an extraordinary time and a rich and fascinating culture.”
It has also been quoted, “he captures the spritiual
beauty of creation itself.”
Sanders’ photographs have appeared in many international
publications, including Time Magazine, Paris Match, The Observer, The Sunday
Times Magazine, Aramco World and the London based pan-Arab news magazine Al
Majalla who published his work as a cover story.
His intimate photographs of the sacred cities of Makkah
and Madinah are in great demand.
Peter Sanders Photography Limited includes travel,
location and studio photography, a photographic library of over 120,000 slides,
as well as the production of fine art prints.
This year will see the publication of his first
photographic book, ‘In The Shade of The Tree.’ Another three are in
mid-production, including one about the muslims in China.
Peter Sanders’ Books
In the Shade of the Tree : A Photographic Odyssey
Through the Muslim World.