Congregation Ladies is from Uzzle’s recent series of portraits focused on the women in the congregation of Warren Chapel in Winterville, NC, with pastor Betty Haddock. Uzzle describes the starting point for the
Congregation Ladies photograph:
That picture probably started in my mind when I was growing up in Eastern NC and seeing all those big hats, and when I bought my studio and finally got the certificate of occupancy after the struggle with all the basic needs like water and lights and a roof, the first picture I did was ladies on a church pew photographed from the back, with the peeling blue paint directly in front of them. I have a tear sheet of a story in the Washington Post many years ago about the “Will to Adorn” of black women that employed hats and “church clothes” to maintain their sense of self, and that was a big help in getting through slavery. Wiley Edwards [Uzzle’s assistant], and I decided to do a Congregation Ladies picture with a ton of their signature hats.
He spent a couple of weeks borrowing all the hats from the ladies and getting them here to be spread out on huge sheets of plastic consuming one whole end of the big studio.
Meanwhile I scrubbed clean the foreground floor. We eventually had 317 hats in the studio, and used over 200 in the picture. All the lighting was done first, camera was put in position and the composition was established. Then each hat was individually placed and checked on the ground glass of the 8×10 camera. There is a left to right theme of red —white – blue with the arrangement of hats. Not a rigid theme, but it is informally there.
Shoot day was a thrilling circus with many ladies bringing multiple outfits to choose from. We styled the presentation of each lady to fit the overall concept, spent quite some time organizing their seating or standing positions with stools and chairs, etc.
Each lady got a courtesy thank you print. That print on my studio wall has always been the center of prolonged attraction with tour groups, as they relish the spectacle of all the hats and outfits and, even more important, the faces of each lady. That’s why the print has to be
that large – to properly see those faces!!
Tags: contemporary, ritual, color, North Carolina