Before I started photographically documenting rural Florida, I’d drive with the sole purpose of destination. Here and there something would catch my eye, but I’d not take the time to examine it from different angles. In the past, I’d have sped right by the cow in the winter woods without paying it any mind. Now, I wonder why it is in the woods and not in a pasture (answer: the people who own the cow have no pasture land, only a single-wide on a small patch of dirt) and how it has adapted its diet to a lack of grazing grass.
The New Baptist Hope Church in western Williston caught my eye because of its simplicity and its clean strength. Its paint is clean against the blue Florida sky and you can discern that some care is taken in its upkeep. In and around Gainesville, in particular out on SW 122nd and also on Newberry Road, religion is a big, ambitious business. Large church compounds are being built as quickly as condos formerly were. The simple New Hope Baptist represents a more modest architectural approach; it is unadorned and its bell is small, perhaps even undersized. But between these two approaches, which has the greater authority?
As America becomes more a place of homogeneity, the simple rural churches offer a visual charm that is fast disappearing on America’s roadways. It wouldn”t be much fun to drive around the country photographing uniform outposts of mass culture. The little church offers a different type of signpost.