Walking in the Light is John Cohen’s photographic journey towards and through gospel music. From 1954 to 1964 he photographed in the black churches of East New York, on the streets of New Haven, in the home of blind Reverend Gary Davis, as well as in the darkness of a boxing gym and the blackness of coal shovelers at an industrial site. Of all these images, those of worshippers at a small church in Harlem form the emotional centerpiece of Cohen’s journey, where music leads to spiritual release in trances and dances. The last destination of this odyssey is Johns Island, South Carolina, where Gullah children connect to African ancestors through games and play.
Cohen’s photographs of musical performances in religious settings reflect the inner sound expressed on the face of a singer, a soulful expression, the quality of light that illuminates the face of a child, or the intensity of a prayer. Sound, song and religious feeling are permanently rendered in black and white.