David Cummings’ photographic exhibits have been seen and enjoyed by many of us. This Anniston dentist and his wife, Lesa, have traveled to 67 countries, shooting scenes of people, places and cultures that they brought home to us.
Thanks to David Cummings’ camera skill, his interest in exploration and his eye for what’s captivating, we have, in a way, seen the scenes ourselves.
But this one is different. In the exhibit “Holy People” at the Oxford Performing Arts Center in the Martin-Lett Gallery, the images are in black and white. And there is a feeling of seriousness.
In fact, within Cummings’ total collection of photos, representing world travel and decades of work, he considers this assemblage his most serious body of work.
In this focus, the purpose was deeply felt. “I was interested in the devotion the artists showed in creating the holy people from stone, wood, glass and sometimes even human flesh and blood (representing the real people who cared for the statues). Real people have worked to maintain them. I admire the efforts of both. Their efforts have made an impact that has lasted for centuries.”
The photographer introduces his exhibit to the viewer using these written words:
“Holy People can be found in churches and cemeteries worldwide. Whatever the material, these people do their job in places of reverence and repose, gladly and without complaint. In a church setting, they help worshippers reach out to their God. They do this in different ways depending on the culture. In a cemetery, they mourn the departed and bring peace to the visitor.
“Wherever you go in the world, you can take measure of the wealth and sincerity of a society by how elaborate and well-maintained its Holy People are. Inevitably, at some point, all of these Holy People will revert to the basic elements from which they were made. This was never expected by their makers, but that’s the way the world works.”
This serene display, to me, can also be described as “holy faces in sacred places.” The places of worship as well as the faces evoke an atmosphere of reverence. Viewing the exhibit should, at best, be unhurried in order to feel the spiritual nature of the series.
The places of worship were not hard to find, Cummings said. “Each society makes sure that its best architectural examples remain in good condition. But each place was special in its own way.”
A small young angel — who seemed deep in contemplation to Cummings — and a monk opposite the Christ Child are two of many images.
In a statue of Joan of Arc, the French heroine carries a sword. “You can see the determination and strength in her face,” Cummings said.
The marble memorial of Violet Vaughn Morgan in Norwich Cathedral in England represents a girl who was secretary to the Bishop of Norwich. Sadly, she was a victim of a virulent strain of influenza, “the Spanish flu,” that killed millions from 1918 to late 1920 just after World War I. Known as “Sweet Vi,” she died at age 20.
“It makes you wonder how at her young age she could handle such responsibility,” Cummings said.
The photographs are in black and white so that the holy people’s facial expressions are dominant. “This is my preferred medium for this collection,” Cummings said.
The exhibit will be up through July. OPAC is closed Sunday and Monday but the building is open during box office hours, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday. The gallery is also open during performances at OPAC.
‘Prayer Project’ concert at Anniston church
“The Prayer Project,” a concert of worship presented by Kathy Murphy and Friends, will be June 30 at 3 p.m. at Anniston First United Methodist Church. The public is invited. More details will be available in next Sunday’s column.
Hervey Folsom writes about the local arts scene every Sunday. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.