The Commercial Appeal, Friday, February 02, 2007
By Pamela Perkins
Ladies in grand dress hats. Men and women overwrought with the Holy Ghost. Arms reaching for heaven. Whether Church of God in Christ or Baptist or Seventh-Day Adventist, Memphis or Baltimore or Philadelphia, some images are common and sometimes exclusive to African-American churches. Seventy-five of those scenes are on display beginning today in “Soul Sanctuary: Images of the African-American Worship Experience,” a traveling exhibit of photographs by former Memphian Jason Miccolo Johnson at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music. The exhibit of black-and-white photographs, part of the museum’s observance of Black History Month, will run through April 29 — in a place where a real church relocated from Duncan, Miss., is on permanent display. Eight local churches are among those featured in the exhibit, which is included in the price of museum admission. “The roots of soul music are intrinsically linked to gospel,” said Carol Drake, exhibits manager of the museum that pays homage to Memphis soul music and the old Stax Records label. It was founded as Satellite Records 50 years ago. Johnson is a nationally award-winning documentary, news and fine art photographer. He is a 1974 graduate of Carver High and a resident of Washington. He has been published in more than 15 books and 50 magazines including “Q: The Autobiography of Quincy Jones,” Glamour, Ebony, Time and Smithsonian. Another “Soul Sanctuary” exhibit is on display at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Va. He said a rash of church fires in the 1990s inspired the collection. “I thought that I’d better rush to document black America’s most important institution, the black church, before we start to lose too much of our treasure,” said Johnson, 50. His inspiration became resolve after the Million Man March in 1995, when Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan exhorted the men who attended to use their talents to uplift their communities. Johnson started the project in his hometown. Through the next 10 years, he visited 200 churches in 25 states and produced about 1,500 images. He published 165 photographs last spring in a book of the same name as the exhibit. The images are displayed in chronological order of events during a worship day. Johnson said, “Even for people who’ve never been in an African American church, they can … feel comfortable going to an African-American church now because they have a better understanding of its order, its dignity and its beauty.” — Pamela Perkins: 529-6514 “Soul Sanctuary” What: An exhibit of photographs by former Memphian Jason Miccolo Johnson. Where: The Stax Museum of American Soul Music, 926 E. McLemore. When: Today through April 29. Opening reception 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Feb. 11. Cost: Included in museum admission. The reception is $10 per person, free to museum members. Copyright 2007, commercialappeal.com – Memphis, TN. All Rights Reserved.