January 2014



Newbern Presbyterian (1848), Newbern, Alabama

Artist’s Statement

I explored the countryside of Alabama and Mississippi to find and photograph Jacksonian-era Protestant meetinghouses that still remain.

These vernacular one-room churches are distinctive. All were built in the single generation before the Civil War, a period remembered for its elaborate architecture. However, the meetinghouses were quite plain: always white with green shutters, rarely with a cupola, never with a cross. Large, clear-glass windows illuminated austere sanctuaries. The two front doors and divided pews physically separated men and women; the enslaved congregants were also set apart, often in an upstairs gallery with a special entrance. The meetinghouses thus strongly reflected both the prevailing Calvinist values and the social realities of the antebellum south.

I photographed each church centered and grounded within its own space, which was always clearly delineated from the surrounding landscape. I wanted the resulting images to reflect the same sense of order, simplicity, and dignity as the meetinghouses themselves.




Don Norris is a native of northwestern Indiana. He is an emeritus professor of biological sciences, University of Southern Mississippi, and lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

As a photographer of landscapes, he is interested in the everyday, and in particular the vernacular architecture that gives us a deep sense of place. He travels widely, and especially within the Gulf South, where he has photographed in many small towns and rural settings that prospered in Jacksonian America. His images are realistic, straightforward, precise, and economical.

Don’s photographs have been selected for numerous national and regional juried competitions and have won several awards. His work is part of both private and public collections, including those of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, and Alabama’s Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.