Images of the African American Worship Experience
SOUL SANCTUARY: Images of the African American Worship Experience will be on exhibit at the YMI Cultural Center beginning Tuesday, December 11 and continuing through March 1, 2008. The exhibit highlights the most influential institution in the black community — the African American church — and its unique worship experience, as seen through the eyes of 30-year veteran photographer Jason Miccolo Johnson.
From its tradition of “call and response” to its spirited choirs and musicians, the black church is nothing short of mesmerizing. Soul Sanctuary captures the spirit of that unique worship style through arresting images of congregants’ facial expressions and body language, their colorful uniforms and dress, and the dignity of their worship. Serene and exalting, pensive and inspirational, these images capture a community’s spiritual poetry in motion. Baptisms, weddings, funerals, ecstatic soloists, inspired choir directors, prophetic preachers, angelic liturgical dancers, and peaceful moments of prayer and praise — these are the behind-the-scenes images that show the viewer the black church from Johnson’s unique vantage point.
“Soul Sanctuary is my
visual anthem to those who have persevered and found solace and
strength within the black Christian church: the dedicated, the
downtrodden, the disposed, and the faithful,” comments Johnson. “I
think of Soul Sanctuary as a family photo album of familiar faces in
familiar places that recall warm memories of my childhood. The
emotional warmth and security that come from being part of a church
family that loves you for you is some of what I looked for in my
documentation of black folk worshiping.”
Soul Sanctuary captures not only the spiritual dimension of the black
church, but the pride and dignity that prevails within the church-going
family. It celebrates many of the iconic images reminiscent of the
traditional black church, yet peers through the window of today’s
contemporary church setting. It is this celebration that is documented
in Soul Sanctuary, a photographic project ten years and 15,000 images
in the making, spanning twenty states and over two hundred churches.
The photographs are shot using available light only.
Soul Sanctuary is organized into six sections in chronological order,
much like the order of service in a typical church bulletin, beginning
with “Preparation” and ending accordingly with “Benediction.” Viewers
witness familiar scenes of worship shared by Baptists, Methodists,
Pentecostals, Catholics, Seventh Day Adventists, and non-denominational
Jason Miccolo Johnson is a nationally known award-winning documentary,
editorial, and fine art photographer. The Memphis native and Howard
University alumnus is perhaps best recognized for his trademark visual
“call-and-response” shooting style with poignant images that focus on
the subject’s eyes and hands. Nowhere else is this more evident than in
his new exhibition, Soul Sanctuary, which the late Gordon Parks called
a “magnificent collection.”
The YMI Cultural Center, located at 39 S. Market Street in downtown
Asheville, has honored and celebrated Western North Carolina’s diverse
cultural heritage and history for more than a century. Soul Sanctuary
is cosponsored by the nine historic black churches* that were founding
partners of the YMI Cultural Center.
For tickets, group tours, and other information on this and other
exhibits, call at (828) 252-4614 or visit the YMI web site at
www.ymicc.org. Soul Sanctuary will remain on exhibit through March 1,
2008. A companion book of the same title is available for sale in the
*Berry Temple Methodist, Brown Temple CME, Hill Street Baptist,
Nazareth First Baptist, New Bethel Baptist, New Mt. Olive Missionary
Baptist, Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist, St. James AME, Tabernacle
The text should not have identified Johnson as “the author of 15 books,” but should have stated that he has been published in more than 15 books including, Songs of My People, Standing in the Need of Prayer, Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones, Black Mothers: Songs of Praise and Celebration, and Committed to the Image, and more than 50 magazines, including Christian Singles, Glamour, Essence, Ebony, Time, Newsweek, Smithsonian, Jet, and Black Enterprise.
Also, with Gordon Parks’ blessing, Johnson was the visionary and organizer of Mr. Parks’ 90th birthday salute which brought together 90 of the nation’s top African American photographers for a historic group photo in Harlem. But it was not a surprise party, and the photo taken on Parks’ 90th birthday, showing Johnson and Parks standing side by side, was later printed in his obituary program but was not one of the last pictures taken of Parks.
It is the mission of the Urban News to chronicle concise and factual information. We apologize to Mr. Jason M. Johnson and our readers for this error in reporting.