In a senseless act of vandalism, Canada's second oldest Anglican church was burned down in a Halloween night prank. A couple of days after the tragedy, a friend suggested a trip down to view the remains. We went and I was haunted by the devastation I saw behind the police-line tap: blackened and scorched walls, hand painted boards running with creosote and painted-glass windows lying shattered on the grass. After returning back to Halifax, and as a result of long conversations with me and on the phone, Joy obtained permission for me to visit the church site and photograph within its walls, behind the police tape and before the reconstruction work started.
The first time I visited the church, it was not possible to approach it
very closely because of the security measures. The second visit was
totally different, with full reign being given to access the church and
document the effects of the fire. The week that had gone by had changed
the building greatly - the majority of the windows were now boarded over
and much of the northern end of the building was wrapped in tarps to
keep the weather out but, even with those modifications, the building
was visually rich and heartbreaking at the same time.
richness came form the visual spaces created by the destruction -
everywhere I looked there were possibilities from books emerging from
inches of ashes, to creosote stains on the walls. The heartbreak was
equally obvious in the same places, as my eye took in the hand-written
notes still tacked to the bulletin board to the hand-painted patterns on
I spent most of the day working in the church, carefully moving the 8"x10" camera from location to location and turning its detail-gathering ability on composition after composition. At the end of the day, I had over a dozen negatives which captured much of what I sought to convey - the beauty and pathos that existed simultaneously.
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