Photographer Wrights loves old churches

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 12, 2011

By Katie Scarvey
Photographer Wayne Wrights loves old churches.
“If I see an old church when I’m traveling, I’ll stop,” he says.
“There is something magnetic about them,” he says.
He likes to imagine how and why they began.
“Were they an offshoot from another church? Were they just started by pioneer settlers? I am sure if they could talk they would have many stories to tell us.”
He not only shoots churches in this area but loves to travel to New England, where he can capture images of older churches, including the Old First Church in Bennington Vermont, built in 1762. It’s where the poet Robert Frost is buried.
He normally shoots churches in black and white for a nostalgic look. He uses a digital camera that has been converted so that it uses only infrared film, which has the potential to imbue photos with an almost unearthly feel.
Since he is trying to achieve a timeless effect, Wrights shoots from angles that exclude jarring modern touches, such as telephone lines. He prefers to let people see the church as it looked when it was first built.
He’s often drawn to white, clapboard-type churches, — the “old-time religion” churches that are typically smaller and family-oriented.
Wrights himself grew up attending Boyer’s Chapel Church of Christ in Clemmons, where he still attends.
The image Wrights took of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Boyden Quarters is striking.
Wrights passed the Mount Ulla church one day on his way to another church and noticed the moon coming up.
He came back in the afternoon and captured a dramatic image.
“I used the cross as a symbol pointing to the heavens above. To me, everything is pointing to the heavens,” he says.
He notes that the image is a “straight” shot with no manipulations in camera or software.
The infrared film is what makes the sky look black instead of blue — and provides the contrast that makes the photo so visually arresting.
Grace Lower Stone Church in Rockwell has also attracted Wrights’ attention. Organized about 1745, it’s one of the oldest churches in North Carolina. It’s built of irregular field stone with a 12-foot gable roof. The walls measure 32 inches thick at ground level.
Wrights has also turned his artist’s eye to Knox Chapel United Methodist Church, located in Cleveland. The church was built in 1894 and is the oldest United Methodist structure in the county.
Organ Lutheran Church in eastern Rowan County also has a long history. The oldest part was built in the 1790s and is sometimes referred to as “Zion Lutheran Church”.
Wrights’ photographs are in corporate collections, museums, and galleries as well as many homes and small businesses across North and South Carolina.
To see more of Wayne Wrights’ photography, go to www.