I have been photographing churches for over 50 years, but I still clearly remember taking the first pictures of a little, deserted church on top of a hill outside of Amesville, Ohio in the early seventies. I was a graduate student at Ohio University and my future wife, Kathy Horn, was photographing alongside me.
That moment in time stays with me to this day, and the image was the first of an ongoing series of photographs of vernacular church architecture which, years later, I titled "All Things Bright and Beautiful," taken from a hymn written by Cecil F. Alexander. Most of the photographs are from the Southeast and Midwest.
These old, modest churches are respected and mostly well cared for by their communities. The buildings mingle with the spiritual culture of those who built them long ago, and those who care for them now. I am attracted to the distinctive elements in each church itself and to the unique environment each house of worship exists in-these churches, awash in light, are inspiring to me.
There are the obvious religious aspects of my work. I don't photograph the churches from the viewpoint of an architectural historian, but rather as a photographer who is expressing my faith through my work; think of them as prayers if you wish.
My son, Robby Biferie, worked on a project that incorporated my photographs into his imagery for his senior thesis exhibit at the University of Central Florida. The digitally composited photographs included my churches along with his landscapes. The images are quite beautiful and they drove me to revisit my own work.
Robby's artist's statement for that show was deeply moving for me. In it, he wrote that "My earliest memories are of my tagging along as he would search the landscape for old churches; a remnant of his forgotten faith." I had never thought about my work in that way, but he was right.
Since then, I have rejoined the church and attend mass regularly at a nearby monastery. My faith, or search for it, has always been a driving force behind my work.
Dan Biferie 2020