Holy Places in Louisiana
A. J. Meek
Essay by Marchita B. Mauck
University of Mississippi Press
112 pages (approx.), 9 x 11 inches, 88 color photographs
978-1-60473-741-7 Cloth $35.00
978-1-60473-742-4 Ebook $35.00
A decade's worth of fine art photography taken in the most divine
spaces of an elegantly devout state
Renowned photographer A. J. Meek takes the novitiate
on an inspired visual journey with eighty-eight color photographs of
the interiors of churches and synagogues located in south Louisiana,
mostly along the lower Mississippi River valley. Tourists may crowd
the famous European cathedrals such as Notre Dame in Paris and
Westminster Abbey in London. Yet the splendors of local churches in
America all too often remain cloistered and unheralded. Meek's
beautiful photographs correct this oversight for Louisiana, a state
that features a great many beautiful and long-standing holy places.
Often incorporating long exposures and select framing, the images in
the first section of Sacred Light encompass altars, chancels, and
sanctuaries. The second section contains photographs of statues
representing deities, angels, madonnas, and saints, often seen with
intense color derived from stained-glass windows or artificial
light. Light itself is the subject of the third and last section. In
several photographs, light is transformed by a window into a
kaleidoscope of color on a wooden pew or pulpit chair. Other times
the light seems to radiate a living presence of its own.
Additionally, the book includes an essay by Louisiana State
University art historian and liturgical space consultant Marchita B.
Sacred Light also contains photographs of some of the church and
synagogue restoration projects after Hurricane Katrina. Meek relates
that the storm was the shadow he was looking for that defines
blessed light. He places emphasis on restoration, not destruction,
as a testimony to the resilience of the human spirit.
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SACRED LIGHT: HOLY PLACES IN
Photographs by A.J. Meek; essay by Marchita B. Mauck University
$35, 112 pp.
Retired LSU professor A.J. Meek has meticulously and exquisitely
captured the beauty of the interiors of Louisiana churches and
synagogues in this latest book.
Using the correlation of light to indicate the presence of God,
Meek’s images utilize available lighting to the fullest for their
focus, depth and sense of divinity. Details of art, statuary and
architecture highlight many of the captivating images.
In contrast, the damage sustained by many New Orleans churches in
the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina causes one to pause at these very
visual signs of loss. In his comments at the beginning of the book,
Meek explains that it took him until a year after the storm to be
able to face these damaged houses of worship to photograph them. He
was in the midst of his photo project when Katrina struck, so he has
before and after shots of many of these interiors.
New Orleans churches do make up the bulk of the book, which also has
photos of Baton Rouge churches and those in surrounding areas. The
chapel at the Rosaryville Convent in Springfield is draped in purple
for Lent; the sanctuary of the convent chapel at St. Joseph Academy
is lit solely by two skylights; and the interior of the Our Lady of
Mount Carmel Catholic Church in St. Francisville is bathed in an
orange-gold hue radiating from stained glass windows.
Meek is drawn to capture these images for simple reasons, he relates
in his comments. “ ... being inside offers a quiet refuge from chaos
and confusion. It is a search for beauty, and I can make photographs
in peace. That is reason enough.”
- Judy Bergeron,