A documentary photographer's vivid study of the daily and spiritual lives of an African American coastal community
True Places is an emotionally charged photographic documentary of the lives of evangelical pastor Floyd Knowlin and his close-knit African American congregations who live, work, and worship in a rural stretch of coastal South Carolina.
For more than a decade photographer Stanley F. Lanzano has immersed himself in the daily practices of this community in Williamsburg and Georgetown counties, befriending Reverend Knowlin and becoming a welcomed part of his extended church family. The respectful relationship that Lanzano has forged with his subjects and the trust that they have extended to him shines through in the eighty-three black-and-white and eight color photographs included here, illustrating a vibrant coastal subculture rarely witnessed by outsiders.
Many of Lanzano's photographs document services and church revivals, conveying the great joy, sorrow, and fervor of these meetings while highlighting Knowlin's captivating persona. Lanzano also grants us glimpses into baptisms in the murky, still waters of lowcountry South Carolina rivers. Beyond the church he takes us into the private homes and lives of Knowlin's flock, many of whom are of Gullah descent and keep elements of this heritage alive in their daily practices. Collectively these images show a society in transition, where pain and grief are juxtaposed with redemption and bliss.
Lanzano's narrative of his meeting Reverend Knowlin and his continuing relationship with Knowlin's community is a tale of self-discovery. It is also a testament to the power of faith in the lives of often forgotten South Carolinians. It is a rarity for a photographer to be granted such unlimited access into these communities. Through these images Lanzano creates with the utmost reverence and respect a powerful record of the hardships and hopes he witnessed among Knowlin's congregations to preserve their legacy and to share their inspirational attitude toward life in these true places.
Stanley F. Lanzano is a self-taught photographer and storyteller. A native New Yorker, Lanzano is a graduate of Mount Saint Mary's University and Yale University. He moved with his family from New York to Boulder, Colorado, in 1974 and developed his photographic interests after a successful real estate career. Lanzano's work has been featured at the McKissick Museum in Columbia, South Carolina, the Morris Museum of Art in Augusta, Georgia, the Denver Art Museum, and numerous other galleries in Colorado.
"True Places is about life-changing journeys—the deeply felt personal journey of photographer Stanley Lanzano, the exuberant spiritual journey of the people he records, and our own immensely rewarding visual journey as we proceed through these remarkable images. There is a sense of spirit, honesty, and trust that radiates off these pages. As our world grows more urban and homogenized, True Places is a reminder that there are still places where people proudly maintain lives of spiritual commitment and service. Traveling through the South Carolina lowcountry with Lanzano provides a stirring visual experience and at the same time suggests we might each benefit from more grace in our lives."—Lynn Robertson, director, McKissick Museum
"Stanley Lanzano's photographic and narrative recordings of the spiritual lives of African Americans in the South Carolina lowcounty are profound in their sensitivity to a culture that is often misunderstood. The roles of the church, its congregation, and its pastors are essential to the fabric of rural southern communities in providing what Lanzano rightly identifies as 'direction, sensitivity, and hope' to all members of the community as they address the challenges of life. True Places illustrates these connections with honesty and integrity."—Jonathan Green, artist
"Right under my nose, some eighty miles away from my home in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Stanley Lanzano happened upon and photographed an amazing world that was hidden from view. The dynamic images in this volume offer outsiders a rare glimpse into the culture and struggles of a deeply spiritual community, living in the shadow of the coastal tourist culture so often equated with the lowcountry. And I was delighted to discover that Lanzano's photographic composition shares much with my own techniques and camera work."— Cecil Williams, photographer, author, and artist"
"In these images, members of the congregation testify, sing, and pray, presenting an image of a close-knit community that is rich in friendship and faith."—Foreword Reviews
"…a lot in this small book to soak in and savor…pain and grief are juxtaposed with redemption and bliss."—Boulder Daily Camera
"Lanzano offers black-and-white and color photographs of holy places, the congregants, and their homes and places of business, recording an abiding faith that helped them to cope with drudgery and misery and to celebrate joy. He records church services, revivals, baptisms, funerals, and christenings. Lanzano was more than a photographer and observer; he joined in services and was moved to tears of sadness and joy as he unburdened himself and found relief and release in the spiritual places."—Booklist