LAMENT, Unseen, for Website for JS .jpg

(a project in progress)

L A M E N T

a song of sorrow for those not heard

The photographs in this series, Lament, a song of sorrow for those not heard, are an elegy, a quiet offering and a tribute honoring those who suffered under the tragic hand of slavery. This project was born out of my need to acknowledge the grievous history of the South, where I was born and continue to live. This is a personal journey to face the injustices of slavery that still casts a shadow on our culture. Although I can never take away the enormity of the injustices that were laid upon people of color during this period, this work lay bare my feelings for the harrowing violations of human rights, and the shame indentured upon these innocent people. 

This project began when my son revealed that we were sitting in the same balcony pews in a 250-year old church where the enslaved once sat. I was moved to tears and had never felt the past so close to the present, as I did in that moment. I decided to document what I could of the history that is still felt here. Using my 8” x 10” camera and a Darlot brass barrel lens, likely made during the Civil War, I approached this project with trepidation, all the while wondering if I was the rightful person to be documenting these markers of the past. I returned to the church balcony where the enslaved once sat considering their mournful and solemn presence as they observed the sermons for their owners.

This project has led me to other vestiges of our past, including the Mendenhall Homeplace, an important Quaker community which historically defended individual freedoms and the nearby New Garden Woods, on the historic path of the Underground Railroad where Levi and Catherine Coffin were leaders in actively assisting those enslaved on their path to freedom, as well as other church balconies and slave dwellings.  

This project has become a personal journey for me and has led me to research my own family history and how it relates to this difficult past. Standing on these properties it is difficult to comprehend the enormity of the hardships imposed upon all those who were enslaved, their lives torn apart in every way. This exploration has helped me understand the gravity of the history on which our lives today are kneeling. It is through this lens looking back in time, that somehow, we can see ourselves and be reminded that we are all woven into this social fabric of time, history, and life. 

A portion of the proceeds from this project will be donated to the Slave Dwelling Project, a not for profit organization dedicated to developing resources to preserve African American Slave Dwellings.