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
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
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