Returning to Nature-The Church at Mont Helena Plantation
Over the last several years I have spent many hours traversing the great expanse of what is referred to as the Mississippi Delta. It is actually more of an alluvial plain where the mighty Mississippi River has ebbed and flowed, frequently changing course over the decades and with each change depositing silt and creating one of the most fertile areas in the world for growing crops such as cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and a few other things.
As I have driven through the Delta exploring the back roads, listening to my car tires clicking off the miles while hitting the gaps in the concrete of old US Highway 61, there are several places that have a special draw for me and each time I am in the area I make it a point of going back to see the changes that have occurred. It is interesting to see how things transition over the years and watching as nature begins to reclaim what is hers when man no longer has an interest or the financial means to save them. There are many places like this in the Delta but one of my favorites is somewhere I make a special effort to try to go each time I am anywhere close and that is the old church at Mt Helena Plantation.
I wrote about this church in a blog post a few months back entitled, "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms," and have wondered how the old church was faring since I was there last November with my good friend Dave Wolanski. I am sad to say, it isn't doing too well.
Since my first visit in 2011, the church has gone through regular changes and at this point it seems to be in the last stages of its life, ignoring the owner's efforts to prevent it from leaning by erecting internal braces. When I was there this past weekend with my good friend from Kansas, Cort Anderson, some of the cross braces had fallen and the church was really beginning to lean.
The chimney has fallen from the church and the back wall seems to be making an effort to separate itself from the rest of the building. The front of the church is leaning more than it was last year and the siding at the back has begun to fall off the building. The only thing that seems to remain constant is the old piano inside.
It won't be long now before the building leans one last time before falling back on itself. And when that happens, a piece of Mississippi Delta history will be lost forever with only personal memories and photographs made through the years remaining.
This is part of why I do what I do with photography, and on the back of my business card is a quote from Henri Cartier-Bresson that really applies here. It reads, "Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again."
On at least two other occasions I have photographed places that have later vanished. I've learned to always stop and make a photo every time I see something like this, even if the light may not be correct or it is the wrong time of day or whatever because the next time I am by there, it might no longer exist.
It will be a sad day when the bell rings one last time.....
Mont Helena CME ChurchBuilt in 1878, this church served the plantation workers for many years but is on its last stage of life. Mont Helena CME ChurchA view from the south side of the old church that was built in 1878.
Keywords: Mississippi, Mississippi Delta, Mont Helena, Mont Helena Plantation, Print of the Month, bell, church, falling, leaning, old, photography, piano, plantation, windows
I posted a photo last year from our trip and you can see the lean has changed a lot in just a few months! http://davidwolanski.com/2013/11/25/delta-deluge-on-film/
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