Guide to the Lauren Pond photographs, 2011-2016
Collection consists of 49 color inkjet prints from the documentary project Test of Faith by photographer Lauren Pond. The images are approximately 20x14 inches in size and are unmatted. Between 2011 and 2016, Pond documented the life, death, and West Virginian family of Pentecostal pastor and serpent handler, Mack Wolford, of the Full Gospel Apostolic House of the Lord Jesus in Matoaka, West Virginia. The series includes images of Wolford's death in his family home after he was bitten by the venomous snake. Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.
- Collection Number
- Lauren Pond photographs
- .5 Linear Feet, 2 boxes; 49 prints
- David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
- Materials in English.
This collection consists of 49 color inkjet prints from the documentary project Test of Faith by photographer Lauren Pond. The images measure approximately 20x14 inches and are unmatted. Between 2011 and 2016, Pond documented the life, death, and West Virginian family of Pentecostal pastor and serpent handler, Mack Wolford, of the Full Gospel Apostolic House of the Lord Jesus in Matoaka, West Virginia. The series includes images of Wolford's death in his family home after he was bitten by the venomous snake.
In an artist's statement, Pond writes: "Serpent handlers, also known as Signs Followers, belong to a small Appalachian Pentecostal Holiness sect that holds a literal interpretation of the King James Bible's Mark 16:17-18. This passage describes the 'signs' of true believers, including the ability to 'take up serpents.' Believing in absolute obedience to God's Word, Signs Followers handle venomous snakes during their worship services. If bitten, they generally do not seek medical treatment, and instead, entrust their fate to God."
"Seeking a deeper understanding of serpent handlers and their faith, in 2011, Lauren traveled to West Virginia and met Mack, who invited her to document both his worship services and daily life. The course of her work changed dramatically in 2012, when she attended a worship service where Mack was fatally bitten by a rattlesnake. Through her images, Lauren illustrates her relationship with Mack and his family, the challenging experiences they have shared, and the insights these have given her into the tenets of the Signs Following faith – namely, forgiveness and renewal."
Test of Faith is the 2016 winner of Honickman First Book Prize in Photography, given by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.
Acquired as part of the Archive of Documentary Arts at Duke University.
The prints are arranged in their body of work in chronological order as received.
Access to the Collection
Collection is open for research. Images may only be used for educational, non-commercial purposes; any other use requires the photographer's permission.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48 hours to retrieve these materials for research use.
Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.
Use & Permissions
The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
How to Cite
[Identification of item], Lauren Pond photographs, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.
Lauren Pond is a documentary photographer based in Ohio.
Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.
- Archive of Documentary Arts (Duke University)
- Full Gospel Apostolic House of the Lord Jesus (Matoaka, W. Va.)
- International Pentecostal Holiness Church
- Wolford, Mack
- Clergy -- Family relationships -- West Virginia
- Death -- Photographs
- Documentary photography -- West Virginia
- Pentecostal churches -- Appalachian Region
- Serpents -- Religious aspects -- Christianity
- Snake cults (Holiness churches) -- West Virginia -- Photographs
- Appalachian Region -- Religious life and customs -- Pictorial works.
- West Virginia -- Religious life and customs
The Lauren Pond photographs were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a purchase in 2017.
Processed and encoded by Sylvia Herbold, October 2017.
Accession(s) described in this finding aid: 2017-0127.