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Claudette Champbrun Goux


“Places of Worship”, Religious Vernacular Architecture

When I moved to the United States, the similarities and differences between the two cultures particularly attracted me, and I began to photograph scenes typical of the American way of life. What struck me the most was the American religious fervor and how it was displayed. During my regular “tour" of the city's neighborhoods, I noticed the diversity of churches, temples, congregations of non-denominational cults. This multiplicity of ways of worshipping has produced a kind of unusual religious architecture very close to popular art, a sort of “religious folk-art”.

These small simple building devoted to prayer, are, in a way, sacred places in the secular space of a city; but at the same time, these humble, fragile, and ephemeral buildings, ordinary houses, transformed, improvised into “houses of God", are what testify the best of the indecisiveness between sacred and profane.

This series called "Places of Worship“, which I began in Houston, Texas and continued in southern California documents the extraordinary diversity of way of worshipping and the kind of unusual architecture it has produced.

Through my photographs, I want to reveal this religious vernacular architecture often unnoticed. Also, the multiplicity of makeshift buildings devoted to prayer in inner city neighborhoods are to me a very touching and moving expression of the American popular faith manifested in all its diversity and freedom.

So far, I have chosen to capture the images of these churches from a frontal point of view. This seems to me to fit with the simplicity and naivety of the fragile houses, and through their formal juxtaposition, to emphasize better their difference. There are very few people on my images. They are shown through the result of their works; how they shaped their “sacred” places over time.

These small churches are the story of people; they reflect their societal needs. Their sacred space is a haven, a place of salvation often within their poor neighborhoods. These unpretentious buildings are the open hearts of marginalized small communities seeking economical changes through faith and morality.

Claudette C Goux

Riverside, February 2011

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