• Free Shipping on all orders in the UK
  • Over 7 million books in stock
  • Proud to be B-Corp
  • We aim to be carbon neutral by 2022
  • Over 120,000 Trustpilot reviews
Item 1 of 0
Test of Faith By Lauren Pond

Test of Faith by Lauren Pond

New RRP £36.00
Condition - Very Good
Only 1 left


In Test of Faith Lauren Pond, Winner of the Honickman First Book Prize in Photography, documents a Signs Following preacher and his family in rural West Virginia, offering a deeply nuanced, personal look at serpent handling that invites a greater understanding of a religious practice that has long faced derision and criticism.

Test of Faith Summary

Test of Faith: Signs, Serpents, Salvation by Lauren Pond

Pentecostal serpent handlers, also known as Signs Followers, hold a literal interpretation of a verse in the New Testament's Gospel of Mark which states that, among other abilities, true believers shall be able to take up serpents. For more than a century members of this uniquely Appalachian religious tradition have handled venomous snakes during their worship services, risking death as evidence of their unwavering faith. Despite scores of deaths from snakebite and the closure of numerous churches in recent decades, there remains a small contingent of serpent handlers devoted to keeping the practice alive.

Who are the serpent handlers? What motivates them to continue their potentially lethal practices through the generations? Documentary photographer Lauren Pond traveled to West Virginia in search of answers to these questions. There she met Pastor Randy Mack Wolford, one of the best-known Signs Following preachers in the region, and spent the following year documenting Mack and his family. The course of her work changed dramatically in May 2012, when Mack, then forty-four years old, suffered a fatal rattlesnake bite during a worship service she attended. Pond photographed the events that followed and has continued her relationship with Mack's family.

Test of Faith provides a deeply nuanced, personal look at serpent handling that not only invites greater understanding of a religious practice that has long faced derision and criticism; it also serves as a meditation on the photographic process, its ethics, and its capacity to generate empathy.

Published by Duke University Press and the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University

Test of Faith Reviews

Visually stunning.... Pond is deeply aware of the ethical quandaries of photographing a person while he is dying, which she writes about in a theologically provocative afterword. Her photographic eye is more compassionate than voyeuristic, and she captures something of the essence of Wolford's faith even while hesitating to pin it down. * Christianity Today *
Open the book, and whether you are of faith or not, see what Pond came to see: people of faith, enduring to an end we all face. See sign followers seeking only to be obedient to their God. See people believing, loving and caring, backsliding and returning to be baptized again. And yes, dying. See people so human in their failings and need for re-baptism that a common saying among believers (however baptized) is that even the fish know who they are. Pond's magnificent book will introduce them to you. -- Ralph W. Hood, Jr. * Reading Religion *
To move through this book is to feel the author unwind herself. We feel her taking the measure of the space in which her subjects live. Services that were once photographed as delirious frenzy are now shown as infused with calm, though no less ecstatic. We get a sense that Pond has arrived somewhere very different than where she sought to go when she began, and it also feels like the beginning of a larger story. -- Leo Hsu * Fraction Magazine *
Capturing the true essence of this type of religious phenomenon is delicate. One must balance scene with sensitivity. Pond's work in Test of Faith is a well-blanced blend of both qualities. . . . She invites viewers, through her photography and dialogue, to embark on a journey to understand more deeply the people who take on these acts of faith and who choose to live within a particular lifestyle. -- Chelsie Dubay * Journal of Appalachian Studies *

About Lauren Pond

Lauren Pond is an award-winning freelance photographer based in Columbus, Ohio, the manager of the Fresh A.I.R. Gallery, and a multimedia content producer for the Center for the Study of Religion at Ohio State University. Pond earned a B.S. and B.A. at Northwestern University in 2009 and an M.A. from Ohio University in 2014. Her photographs have been seen in solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States and in Australia. Pond has also spoken extensively on her work at academic conferences and universities in the United States.

Peter Barberie is the Brodsky Curator of Photographs, Alfred Stieglitz Center, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. In 2014, Barberie organized the exhibition Paul Strand: Master of Modern Photography, an in-depth retrospective of Strand's photography and films that has traveled internationally. He also organized the exhibition Zoe Strauss: Ten Years, a major mid-career survey of Strauss's photography. Barberie has written widely on contemporary art and received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2007.

Table of Contents

Foreword / Peter Barberie
Photographs and Text / Lauren Pond
Afterword / Lauren Pond
About the Prize

Additional information

Test of Faith: Signs, Serpents, Salvation by Lauren Pond
Used - Very Good
Duke University Press
Book picture is for illustrative purposes only, actual binding, cover or edition may vary.
This is a used book - there is no escaping the fact it has been read by someone else and it will show signs of wear and previous use. Overall we expect it to be in very good condition, but if you are not entirely satisfied please get in touch with us

Customer Reviews - Test of Faith