I’m what my wife calls a recovering Catholic. I have vague childhood memories of sleeping with a crucifix over my bed as a child. I don’t know what gave me worse nightmares: The sight of a man nailed on the cross or the threat of eternal damnation. As I grew older and began to question my religious teachings, I became more and more fascinated by how other people expressed their own beliefs. They are reflected in images such as a barn in rural Illinois that proclaims “Repent!” to passersby, a concrete statue of Christ off of a lonely two lane road in Western Kentucky, or that of a veteran holding a silkscreen portrait of Jesus that he picked up while on leave in Tokyo during the Korean War.
These photographs are my attempt to reconcile with my childhood memories, current beliefs, and with the wonder that I have for how others manifest their faith both publicly and privately. It began with a road trip down I-55 to New Orleans a few years ago where I first came across these public manifestations of what I see as pure religious faith in the Bible Belt. The project’s name is taken from a traditional gospel tune popularized by Mississippi Fred McDowell about what it would be like to have a “main” line to Jesus:
Jesus is on the mainline. Tell him what you want. Call him up and tell him.
While growing up in a working class Italian neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, Bill Vaccaro thought that blur was normal – that is, until his parents took him to the optometrist to correct his nearsightedness. Still, he felt more comfortable in the blur than in the sharpness. It was like a soft, really good (but well-worn) security blanket.
A self-taught photographer, Bill suppressed his blurry memories by shooting photos with cameras with tack-sharp lenses sporting names such as Leitz, Nikkor and Zeiss. Then he saw his first toy camera photos. He was hooked. He picked up a Holga and, later on, a Diana clone called a Windsor that he affectionately named Princess Di. He shoots almost exclusively with toy cameras, medium format view cameras, and obscure (and not so obscure) film cameras modified with homemade shift-tilt lenses culled from cheap loupes, crappy magnifying glasses, and battered enlarging lenses, bellows torn from old Polaroid cameras, used extension tubes, and gobs of black gaffers tape.
Bill's work has been featured in publications such as SHOTS, Light Leaks, Love, Chicago, and Other. His photos have also appeared online in File Magazine, Flak Photo, mooncruise.com, and in the Rearview section of the Chicago webzine, Gapers Block. He holds bachelor and masters degrees from the State University of New York at Buffalo and currently makes his home in Chicago, Illinois with his wife and son.