Every two years, Catholic church officials gather in Northern Italy for the World Fair for Church Supplies, Liturgical and Ecclesiastical art. It's a trade show and exhibition that plays host to nearly 12,000 attendees, and, last year, photographer Louis De Belle was among them. "As soon as I discovered that there was a big religious trade fair, I booked a ticket," he told me in an exchange over email.
It's easy to see why De Belle would be fascinated with such an event. Italy's religious goods industry is worth an estimated $5.2 billion. A whopping number makes it interesting, sure, but it becomes a little more thought-provoking when you consider that what's being capitalized on in this case are artifacts of faith. De Belle knew he needed to document the fair, with its droves of baby Jesus figurines, racks of Mass vestments, and walls of crucifixes (in an assortment of sizes, with or without an accompanying Jesus). And that's how his series, Besides Faith, came to be.
His images are stark and brightly lit — casting the trade fair in bright reds and blues and amplifying the flashiness of the event. The items for sale will go on to inspire reverence and awe within countless parishes, but at the moment De Belle photographed them, they sat in a row on a folding table, mere objects with a price.
De Belle has self-published his work, and the book is now available online. Click through to view a selection of images and read his thoughts on the spectacle that is the World Fair for Church Supplies.