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Speaking of a Space for Faith

 

Wainwright_Sandown

Q: What is your artistic objective for this project?

A: I’m not attempting to document the buildings architecturally, although these are factual photographs of the interiors and exteriors. What I’m really trying to document is how I feel about the meetinghouses: the sense of wonder that fills me when I experience the space, the solitude, the natural light, the worn wood that people walked on or touched.

Some of the photographs are rather abstract due to the way they’re framed – it takes a while to understand what you’re looking at – but this is how I express the sense of mystery that the buildings evoke, of how these people were the same and how they differed from us today.

Q: Why do you use a view camera and black and white film?

A: If you show someone a photograph of a tree and ask them what it is, they are likely to say "a tree." But it’s not. Every photograph is an abstraction of reality, so that photograph is actually an artistic interpretation of a tree. For me, when the photograph is in color, it tends to cloud this fact because it mirrors reality to a greater extent. Black and white photography emphasizes the abstract, the artistic element.

In working with a view camera, placing myself under the dark cloth helps isolate me from everything but the image I’m working on. The fact that the image is upside down on the ground glass helps me to separate myself for the object – it’s the first step in abstracting the image. It enables me to look very carefully at the elements I’m composing, so that I can see the borders, lines, shapes, forms and textures rather than simply a pew, a door or a pulpit.

Q: How do you compose your images?

A: I want to show how the buildings looked when they were built in the 1600s and 1700s and I try to eliminate any hint of the 19th century or later. That often means framing exterior images to exclude electrical service, nearby buildings and roads.

For interior photographs, I concentrate on forms and textures: the quality of the wood, the architectural shapes of the structure and built-in furnishings. I make all of my exposures with just natural light, which allows me to control grayscale better. That may mean waiting for an overcast day to avoid harsh beams of sunlight and sharp shadows, and using long exposure times. Five minutes is common, and one photograph even took 35 minutes to expose.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Wainwright is a photographer based in Atkinson, New Hampshire, who works in a traditional manner utilizing sheet film, a large-format view camera, and silver gelatin printing. His work has appeared in numerous juried competitions and solo exhibitions, and is included in the permanent collections of both private and corporate collectors, including the Boston Public Library and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

 

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