The banks of the Mississippi River in South Louisiana are sprinkled with jewels of history. The plantation homes are often most noted and visited, holding stories and a legacy of a time long past in our country. They no longer operate in the same sense as they once did, rather providing tours, hosting guests as bed and breakfast’s and the ever popular Southern plantation wedding. However, amongst these plantations there are countless churches, some dating back to days when the plantations flourished, and unlike the plantations, they are still alive and breathing within the community today. I’ve been fortunate to visit a number of these churches and more so become lost within their creaks and filtered light photographing them. Most recently I was commissioned to photography the renovated St John the Baptist Catholic Church in Brusly, Louisiana for the architectural firm of Cockfield Jackson Architects and general contractor Faulk & Meek.
Entering the narthex I was immediately engulfed in the warmth and luminous space. The early morning light filtering into the sanctuary, bouncing amongst the light toned walls and drawing the warmth from the pine floors to welcome each new visitor. As I walked the project with the client I was amazed by the blend of new and old, a testament to the design and the talented craftsmen that spent countless hours breathing new life into this 176 year old church.
The opportunity to walk through a project with a client is always important as their insight and noting of details provide a story to a project. It’s like an introduction to someone you meet for the first time that builds the foundation for which your own relationship will grow. It adds depth to the story I work to write through images. I must be honest, I was a bit eager to get the walk through completed and have the church to myself, not because of the company, my clients were terrific, but rather, from the moment I stepped within the church doors I felt the life of the space and was energized to begin the photography.
I often envision projects as alive, possibly because I spend a lot of time alone with them, searching for just the right angle or light to best portray or tell their story. Certainly the people within them bring life to them, but even when it is just the two of us I sense it. The way they evolve throughout a day as the light changes, the way they reveal a different view even though you’ve walked the space countless times, there is life. With a renovation project the history lives within the walls as well. Before anyone gets concerned, I don’t hear voices and I don’t talk to buildings…..often.
I must admit, St. John the Baptist Catholic Church certainly did speak to me. The history, the mighty Mississippi, swollen above flood levels and tempting to breach the levee, just outside its doors, the spirit, the presence, yes, it had it all. Everyone hears it differently, but I heard a soul thanking all that entered its doors for the new life that has been breathed back into it as it prepares for its next century.