Pray-o-mat: Humble Photo Booth Becomes a Place of Worship

So now you can sit in a booth at Stuttgart airport and access 300 audio prayers from a variety of world religions.

The seed for it was planted back in 2008 with an experimental project by German artist Oliver Sturm.

Nasir Al Mulk mosque

I have mixed feelings about this.

For as long as we have had religion, the best parts of it have helped us rise above the material world by giving us something toward which we can aspire—a reason to be better in every way.


But something about a converted photo-booth-turned-prayer-station called a “Pray-o-mat” seems to press “pause” on the whole spirituality idea. It gives the impression that all one must do is step into a small box, listen to some pre-recorded sounds or words and all will be well.

If only it were that easy, right?

Religion has always been so much grander than that over the millennia. When we consider the history of epic architectural creations in the name of religion or even a colorful mosque, or a white, classically bucolic church complete with steeple, one can’t help but be moved in some way.

Can’t say I’m having that reaction here exactly—at least not at first glance.

I mean c’mon—a photo booth in an airport? Are we commoditizing religion here?

On the other hand, travel can be terribly tedious and draining on even the best of days. (And God forbid you should get delayed due to overbooking on a major holiday. I imagine that booth would have a long line!) So who can argue with weary travelers having a go at a spiritual recharge? Is that not the perfect time to get a little help from above?

And does it actually matter what physical form that help takes?

After all, the material world is what we make of it; it is or does in accordance with whatever plaster of purpose we cast upon it.

In fact, with those colorful mosques, classical churches or “something grander,” that religious purpose is sensed because it is literally built into the structure. The purpose was already cast upon it at inception and “baked” into it, if you will.

Religious moments can happen pretty much wherever we find ourselves—whether we’re in our church, walking a winding path in nature or kneeling on a rug we ourselves laid down.

In the case of the Pray-o-mat booth, this is merely happening after the fact. That doesn’t have to make the purpose weaker in meaning or value.

My point: religious moments can happen pretty much wherever we find ourselves—whether we’re in our church, walking a winding path in nature or kneeling on a rug we ourselves laid down.

We can find religion in all those things and more if we choose to—even in a simple, converted photo booth.

So, as long as we keep that in mind as we avail ourselves of whatever blend of religion and innovation comes our way, I say, “pray on, brothers and sisters. Pray on!”


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