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Outdoor photographer shoots historic houses and churches around the state

Canton — Snapping vacation photos led to a career as an outdoor photographer for Sherry Pace. She’s been pursuing photography seriously for 10 years and has won several awards. Now she’s busy attending book signings all over the state for her first book, “Victorian Houses of Mississippi,” has a contract for a second book and is negotiating for a third. The book was published by the University Press of Mississippi.

Photographing a book of architecture is not without obstacles. Pace notes that she had to contend with fickle weather and lighting, traffic and animals. “I never knew what direction a house would face and lighting is crucial because I want vivid, saturated color such as a really blue sky,” she said. “Sometimes I had to run out in the street with a tripod and try not to get mowed down. Also, I had to be aware of animals. Most were friendly, but you never know about biting dogs.”

The different styles of the houses featured in the book date from 1870 through 1906. They were documented by Richard Cawthon, chief architectural historian for the state Department of Archives and History, who also wrote the narrative and photo captions.

Pace gives her husband, John — owner of John’s Plumbing Company in Madison County— credit for encouraging her to actively engage in photography. “We love to travel and I always took vacation shots. John looked at some of my prints and recognized this gift I have,” she said. “It’s just a gift because I have no formal training. I’m self taught and have learned digital photography, editing and printing through much studying.”

With John’s support, Pace turned her attention to shooting the things outdoors. She liked the lighting and wide variety of subject matter. “I’ve always loved anything outdoors,” she says, “so I hit the outdoors and started shooting.”

The Jackson native was thrilled that one of her photos was selected for a Best of Photography Annual in 2001 and went on to place third in another national contest. “That was my start. Those two vehicles launched me, and I had seven exhibits all over the state during the next two years,” she said.

Her book came about as a result of one of those exhibits where a coffee shop manager suggested she ask University Press to review her work. From that, she was asked to do a book rough draft of architectural photos. With the help of the Department of Archives and History’s Richard Cawthon, Pace narrowed that category down to Victorian houses from around the state.

Armed with Cawthon’s list of authentic Victorian houses, Sherry and John Pace began the adventure of driving throughout Mississippi to photograph as many as possible.

“University Press wanted me to do something unique that had not been done and loved the idea of Victorian houses,” she said. “It took six months, and John said he was driving Miss Sherry. We might drive for hours and find a house in terrible condition or spend hours just looking for houses. We drove thousands of miles because I’m a perfectionist, and if I wasn’t satisfied with a shot, we would go back and retake it.”

Pace, who taught elementary school for nine years, notes that it takes a tremendous amount of patience, stamina and endurance to make photographs. “It takes everything out of me because the shots must be to my satisfaction,” she said. “It must please me. It’s all my work.”

She points out something special about “Victorian Houses of Mississippi.” It contains a collection of photos of houses from the Gulf Coast before Hurricane Katrina severely damaged or swept them away. These photos are also grouped together under Mississippi Gulf Coast on her Web site, www.sherrypacephotography.com, along with all of her collection.

The 53-year-old photographer’s second book will shine the spotlight on Mississippi’s historic churches and will use the same format as her first book. She tries to shoot interesting angles of her subject matter and zoom in on specific details when possible. She has begun forays around the state and included a stop in Woodville where there are numerous examples of historic churches.

She’s mum on the intended subject of her third book, only saying she submitted a proposal and hopes to have an acceptance within the next few weeks.

Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at mbj@msbusiness.com.


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