New England's Colonial Meeting Houses and Their Impact on Society
Thursday 7 April 2011, 7 p.m.
at the Westford Museum
Come meet New Hampshire-based photographer Paul Wainwright and learn about New England's Colonial meetinghouses – once the center of life in every New England town.
When built in the 1700s, Colonial meetinghouses were the focus of both religious and civic life – concepts not at all separate in Colonial New England. Many were built with tax money, and their simple, undecorated architecture reflected the desire of early Puritan settlers to live simple lives apart from the Church of England. Yet these were their "cathedrals," built by hand without adornment, except for the wonderful woodwork. Only a few of them remain in a relatively unchanged state.
These buildings embody an important chapter in American history. In them were formed the principles of our democracy and participatory government. In them the issue of separation of church and state was debated and tested. Wainwright's photography explores these structures and the society that built and used them. They not only present a fascinating glimpse into our nation's Colonial history, but are beautiful as well.
Wainwright's photographs, together with an historical essay by noted Colonial-era historian Peter Benes, have been published in the new book A Space for Faith: The Colonial Meetinghouses of New England (Peter E. Randall Publisher, www.aspaceforfaith.com). This book has recently won the New England Book Festival Award for best photography/art book of 2010.
This elegant book is a collection of Wainwright's classic black & white photographs, together with a substantial historical essay about New England's Colonial meetinghouses. These structures represent an important piece of American history, yet they are not well known. This book features both the beauty of these buildings and a narrative about their place in history, and will appeal to readers of history and to lovers of historic and architectural photography. Wainwright's photographs seek to convey his emotions about these places, and are in the permanent collections of the Boston Public Library and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, among others.
Yankee Magazine said: "Paul Wainwright's photographs are caretakers of memory and history" (November/December 2009).
Brent Glass, Director of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian, writes in his Foreword to the book: "To understand the significance of the New England meetinghouse is to understand the power and the promise of the American Dream."
Paul Wainwright is a photographer based in Atkinson, New Hampshire, who works in a traditional manner utilizing sheet film, a large-format camera, and silver gelatin printing. His work has appeared in numerous juried competitions and solo exhibitions, and is included in the permanent collections of both private and corporate collectors, including Fidelity Investments, the Boston Public Library, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He is a mostly self-taught photographer who brings to his images an eye for space and light, subtle details, and an appreciation of history. Working with traditional photographic media such as sheet film and silver gelatin paper processed in a wet darkroom, he achieves in his prints a sense of quiet contemplation that comes from the slow, Zen-like pace of creating his images. Wainwright holds a Ph.D. in physics from Yale University.
Through his photography, Wainwright's goal is to bring the story of an important yet little-known chapter of American history to a wide audience. A Space for Faith has been produced with generous support from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Mass Humanities, and the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.
Copies of the book will be available for purchase at the event.