Buffalo’s churches could essentially be used as the gauge for how the city is doing, economic-wise, as well its social and cultural fabric. Not just the city as a whole, but individual neighborhoods. If you take the time to look around the various necks of the city, you will find streets that are lined with beautiful historic churches. Then there are other parts that are pockmarked with vacant lots where churches once stood. Still other districts are in jeopardy of losing their church stock, which is a crying shame this day and age.
Buffalo Obscura is a group of photographers that set out to collectively capture the essence of Buffalo’s historic neighborhoods, especially the architectural heritage that is still in jeopardy. On Friday, July 26, from 6 PM to 11 PM, the group will be putting on a one-night show titled Big Tent Revival: Photography Pop Up at The Church of the Transfiguration (Roman Catholic, built from 1896 to 1897 – designed in the Gothic Revival style by Carl Schmill). This will be the largest showing by Camera Obscura to date, featuring the works of the following photographers and artists:
- Photographers: Daniel Britt, Dan Cogliano, Julia Gariepy, Chris Hawley, Molly Jarboe, Christina Laing, Lydia Maybee, Matthew McCarthy, Greg Meadows, Matthew Measer, Kate Stapleton Parzych, J-M Reed, Daniel Seiders, and Fr. Jud Weiksnar
- Visual artist Claudia Carballada
- Projection artists Dan Green and Jeremy Maxwell
- Pianist Sarah Maybee
- Special installations by Seiders and Reed
Big Tent Revival: Photography Pop Up harkens back to the day when the church was the epicenter of life. This was the place where families would come together as a unit. The church held tight-knit neighborhoods together. It was a place where people shared news, sang songs, prayed, and broke bread.
Today, one of the hot trends is to hold funeral services at country clubs, which is one more step in taking the church out of the picture. Fewer events are held at churches, as congregations dwindle.
What is the future of the church?
In coming weeks, 18 photographers and artists will depict their own sentiments through photography and art.
The Diocese of Buffalo closed the East Side church in 1993, after which it went into a period of abandonment and decay. In 2018, Daniel Britt purchased the site and began repairs, giving reason for optimism.
“This pop up will reflect the idea of the ‘big tent revival’—not a literal interpretation of an outdoor religious event, but the idea of a Buffalo revival that is broadly shared,” said Molly Jarboe, a Buffalo Obscura collaborator. “Transfiguration will be the backdrop for artists exploring a ‘big tent’ view of the city.”
“Transfiguration Church may be the most threatened landmark in Buffalo, and one of the great place-defining symbols of the East Side,” said Chris Hawley, a Buffalo Obscura collaborator. “What happens next for this building and its changing neighborhood will be a source of conversation and inspiration at July 26th’s big tent revival.”
“Transfiguration Church is a metaphor for the Buffalo that was, is, and could be, and we wanted artists to take a look at what that might mean,” said Christina Laing of Buffalo Obscura. “Topics could cover anything related to ritual, overcoming, surviving, or celebrating. Any religion, or no religion.”
Big Tent Revival: Photography Pop Up is a one-night only event to be held on the grounds of the Church of the Transfiguration, 929 Sycamore Street, on Friday, July 26, 2019, 6 to 11 pm. The public will not be allowed access to the church interior. The event will take place on the church grounds under a big tent. The work is designed to be affordable to all audiences. Each photographer is making available ten unframed prints, each in editions of five, for only $25 apiece. Buffalo Obscura will offer up locally made Spar sausage and Community Beer Works beer for a voluntary donation.
Lead image courtesy Big Tent Revival: Photography Pop Up – See Facebook event