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Test of Faith Book Launch and Exhibition Opening Is Next Week!

November 16, 2017, 5:30–7:30 p.m.: An opening event at Duke’s Rubenstein LibraryPhotography Gallery for the exhibition Test of Faith: Signs, Serpents, Salvation that includes a reception, artist’s talk, and book signing

In 2016, Lauren Pond was chosen by curator Peter Barberie of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to win the eighth biennial Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography for her color series documenting, as Pond writes, “a family of Pentecostal Holiness serpent handlers that I have photographed since 2011.”

Serpent handlers, also known as Signs Followers, hold a literal interpretation of a verse in the New Testament’s Gospel of Mark, which states that, among other abilities, true believers shall be able to ‘take up serpents.’ Despite scores of deaths from snakebites and the closure of numerous churches, there remains a small contingent of serpent handlers devoted to keeping the practice alive.

As well as a first book (published by Duke University Press and the Center for Documentary Studies), the photographer receives a solo exhibition at Duke University’s new Rubenstein Photography Gallery. The photographs are then placed in the Archive of Documentary Arts in Duke University’s Rubenstein Library.

View a gallery of images on the First Book Prize website and read an article about her work, “How Can Journalists Cross Cultural Divides in the Age of Trump?: Getting to Know a Pentecostal Snake Handler Might Provide an Answer,” that appeared in Pacific Standard.

 

Test of Faith: Exhibition Opening, Book Signing, and Artist’s Talk

Wesley Hogan
Director, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University
and
Deborah Jakubs
Rita DiGiallonardo Holloway University Librarian
and Vice Provost for Library Affairs, Duke University

Cordially invite you to an artist’s talk and reception for
Test of Faith: Signs, Serpents, Salvation
Photographs and text by Lauren Pond
Selected by Peter Barberie to win the 2016 Center for Documentary Studies/
Honickman First Book Prize in Photography

Thursday, November 16, 2017 | 5:30–7:30 p.m.
Rubenstein Photography Gallery and the Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room
Rubenstein Library, Duke University

The exhibition is on view from November 11, 2017–February 4, 2018. The photographs will then be placed in the library’s Archive of Documentary Arts.

Pond’s book, Test of Faith, published in November 2017 by Duke University Press in association with CDS Books of the Center for Documentary Studies, will be available for purchase and signing at the event.

Click here to see a selection of images from Aunties.

 

And then there was a jacket . . .

Lauren Pond: A Journalist Crossing the Cultural Divide

“Lauren Pond’s work suggests that the art of grasping genuine cultural difference—something that’s essential to effective reporting on the American electorate—demands so much more. It asks us to shed our preconceptions, enter strange communities in a spirit of tolerance and humility, interact with genuine respect and curiosity, and earn the trust of our subjects. It asks us, in other words, to do so much more than conventional journalism currently asks us to do.”

“In November of 2017, Duke University Press will publish Test of Faith, a book of photographs by the 31-year-old Ohio photographer Lauren Pond. The volume has already generated buzz, having won the Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography. . . .

“The most common outside reaction to the snake handlers’ ideology is to dismiss it entirely. It’s an understandable take, but it’s also an easy one. Pond, who started taking photographs of serpent handling in 2011, assumed a decidedly more difficult approach: she stripped away the predictable presuppositions, took seriously the Pentecostal brand of worship, and worked to understand snake handlers as snake handlers. But not only that: She aimed to present them as human beings as well, real people with complex systems of belief that, in the depth of their faith, deserved to be understood.

“After learning more about Pond through a phone interview and several email exchanges, it became clear that her mission was to do more than lend meaningful insight into an elusive and exotic religious practice (although she does this remarkably well). It was also to provide a model of journalistic integrity that might, in its quest to grasp a radically alien practice, better help us respect cultures we too often reduce to caricature. Pond chose empathy and tolerance. And it shows in the amazingly nuanced portrayal of her subjects. . . .

Mack Wolford’s mother, Snook, with a customer at the Bramwell Café, Bramwell, West Virginia, 2013. Photograph by Lauren Pond.

“In the wake of Trump’s election, as well as the emergence of “fake news,” the media that so badly botched its coverage of the American electorate has made at least rhetorical efforts to broaden its cultural horizons and double down on the accuracy of its reporting. NPR has lately been talking about providing “reliable and thoughtful spaces” for “important conversations” while remaining a go-to outlet for fact-based reporting.

“Space and facts are fine and good, as are decent conversations. But Lauren Pond’s work suggests that the art of grasping genuine cultural difference—something that’s essential to effective reporting on the American electorate—demands so much more. It asks us to shed our preconceptions, enter strange communities in a spirit of tolerance and humility, interact with genuine respect and curiosity, and earn the trust of our subjects. It asks us, in other words, to do so much more than conventional journalism currently asks us to do.”

Proofing Test of Faith

Looking at first round of printer’s proofs with photographer Lauren Pond and designer Amy Ruth Buchanan at Duke University Press. The book goes to the printer in August and will be available in November.

 

Lauren Pond’s Test of Faith: Duke University Press Fall 2017 Catalog