Photographs by James Perry Walker
Photographer James Perry Walker spent six years snapping photographs on the Mississippi Delta preaching circuit. That’s six years of weathered old men and their cigarettes, children in their Sunday best, and shining white chapels; four congregations of poverty, pain, and faith; and one rousing black Baptist preacher, the Reverend Louis Cole. In The Reverend, Walker pays tribute to these four communities and the man that led them by fusing his black and white photographs with earthy advice, humorous anecdotes, and a sermon from the now deceased Reverend Cole.
Ordained in 1919, Cole tended Sabbath flocks for more than sixty years, but it was his hands that conducted the real art of ministry. As he toils over crops, hassles with doctor bills, and builds his own $100 house, Cole demonstrates that faith is erected from the planks and nails of daily life. The Reverend suggests that there is no divide between body and soul, the physical and divine, or our Sundays and Saturdays. Cole plants his corn and conducts his revivals by the same almanac—a full moon can make a difference in both harvests, he explains. Walker’s gritty, stark photographs of the Reverend and his community reveal the bridge between spirituality and everyday life. We see Cole and his congregants going about the business of living at home, at work, and at church. And this active integration of life is also our calling.
“It don't take all that much to be saved,” says Cole, and “It don't take nothing for you to be lost. You want to be lost, don't do nothing.” Together, Walker’s photographs and Cole's frank narration create a portrait of a man and a memoir of a community that illustrate the connection between the pulpit, the pew, and the hard work of living.
To view photographs from "The Reverend," visit James Perry Walker’s website.
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