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CULTURE

A Testimony of Serpent Handling

Photographer Hunter Barnes' intimate images of an obscure American religion

by Graham Hiemstra
on 04 April 2011
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In an era of digitally-manipulated images, Oregon-based photographer Hunter Barnes is one of a strong contingent who continue to create powerful pictures through a documentary approach. Intent on revealing unseen lifestyles, Barnes immerses himself within a community—past subjects have included ranchers, bikers and Native Americans—building trust with its members to intimately depict the reality of misunderstood subcultures.

For his latest project, "A Testimony of Serpent Handling," Barnes traveled to the hills of West Virginia to document the last of a small community of Serpent Handlers. Abiding by the word of God, this dwindling religion (less than 15 members remaining) is largely unknown and fading fast in America. There, Barnes shot traditional black-and-white photography, documenting their miracle healing, poison drinking and serpent handling, in a series which he will exhibit at Milk Gallery NYC and with an extensive book.

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With the process of completing the book underway, Barnes needs to further generate funds by 28 April 2011 to meet production and publication deadlines. To pledge support and help bring this project to publication, jump over to Kickstarter, where he's halfway to reaching his goal of raising $12,000.

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