I met Rod Scott at Wildacres, NC earlier this month, where he was working on a book about the churches of Alabama, his home state. Here is a preview!
“The book you hold in your hands is a labor of love that has extended over much of the past decade. First there was the dream, the desire to put together a collection of beautiful churches found in Alabama. Secondly there was the challenge; how to limit the final selection due to the large number of candidates for inclusion. Thirdly, I was driven by a question: how should the photography contribute to telling each building’s story. Fourthly, is there a framework within which this collection of historical churches can be placed?
It soon became obvious without some sort of criteria the risk was being buried by hundreds of churches without any way of choosing. Thus, the challenge; the goal was to construct a criteria that would both limit the number of contenders, and define the context of the book. What I came up with was simple: if the house of worship has stood in the same place, been occupied by the same denomination or religion, for one hundred continuous years or more (as of the year 2019), then it would be considered for inclusion. Why does the year 2019 matter? It is the date of Alabama’s Bicentennial, this book is about houses of faith that have stood the test of time, that were active living congregations at the time of Alabama’s Centennial, one hundred years ago.
The photographic dimension of this project was daunting. At some point in time I’d need to travel the length and breadth of the state and take interior and exterior photos of every chosen church or temple. While exterior photos are relatively easy to acquire, you can just drive by the building and shoot; interior photos require communication, the framework of a trusting relationship, and a coordination of calendars to have everyone at the same place and time. In many ways this was the best part of the research for the book. Meeting people from all backgrounds at their place of worship and allowing them to guide this stranger with a camera was a highlight of this book. My photographic goal was two fold: one, respect the building’s architectural integrity and heritage and, two, strive toward images that revealed the sacred and reverential which invite the viewer in for a deeper look.
One possible framework to place this collection of churches is that of the ever changing architectural styles. Our first experience of a church from afar is the perception of the building, its size, its shape, the placement of towers or steeples if any exist, the location and shape of the windows and doors. Every single major part of the church building tells a story rooted in history. This historical architectural story is the hidden story that is often forgotten or ignored as church members go about their daily or weekly church related activities. This book will not attempt to catalog the myriad unique activities that vary by congregation, denomination, religion, community. That interesting subject would make a book complete unto itself. In this book, we will layout a time line and include churches that represent the architectural styles over a one hundred year period.”