Feeling a Presence

An Atkinson photographer evokes our Colonial past.

A metal hook on a meetinghouse door that shows more than two centuries of use - it's one of the photographs in Paul Wainwright's "A Space for Faith" [Jetty House/Peter E. Randall, $35] that inspire you to imagine life back then, to imagine the many times the door was unlocked for events in the community.

Wainwright's evocative photographs - taken on a large-format camera on black-and-white sheet film - tell the story of the New England meetinghouses that were at the very center of religious and civic life in Colonial times.

He says his aim was to go beyond just documenting what the buildings - the best architectural examples still standing - look like; he wanted to convey the feeling of "presence" that exists in them and his "sense of wonderment" about the people who built and used them. And so he does, well enough for the book to be recently awarded a New England Book Festival Prize for Best Photography/Art Book.

Wainwright, who earned a Ph.D. in physics from Yale and worked in the corporate world until 2001, is a mostly self-taught photographer. His work has appeared in juried competitions and solo exhibitions, and is in permanent collections, both private and public.


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