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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Jesus Signs


When I first moved to the North Carolina one of the first things to strike me was the obvious difference in the way religion was handled.  I grew up in a Christian Church in Indiana and went to Sunday school every week, but outside of church it religion was not talked about.  It just seemed like something you weren't supposed to bring up.  Down South this unwritten rule was seemingly unwritten.  Religion was a part of people's lives every minute of everyday, it was something people had no problem announcing to the world.

One interesting expression of this Christian fate was seemingly random placed hand painted signs posted on trees and light poles.

They came in a variety of phrases, colors and sizes.  The most popular phrases were "Jesus", "Repent and "John 3:16", but there were many variations.

I started driving around photographing as many of these as I could possible.  One thing came quickly apparent: the majority of the signs has almost an identical font with little eccentricities.  I noticed the large majority of the signs seemed to be in the town in Franklin, NC, which is in the Smoky Mountains.  I would however find these signs almost halfway across the state and as far south as Gainesville, GA.

I became a touch obsessed with finding these signs and posting them to my Flickr Page.  I would periodically drive around town to see if any new signs were up.  I even confess that we snatched a stray sign that had fallen.

A friend of my even located one with the same font in Florida.  Signs would go up over nigh and old ones would vanish.  It appeared that not everyone was thrilled to be finding them nailed to public property.

As seen by this county worker tearing down a sign.

I begin to search for who was responsible for these signs.  One time it came up in conversations with my in-laws and it was mentioned that my wife's cousin put up these signs.  I was shocked to finally figure out who made the signs and even more shocked to find I was related to him by marriage.  I had met my wife's cousin on several occasions, as he was called out to find our septic tank.  The only equipment he used was two straitened coat hangers in a act he referred to as Water Witching.  He stated that he was hired by the local power company to find buried lines.  No normally I am very skeptical of practices such as this, but I watched with my own two eyes as the wires crosses and my father in-law proceeded to dig up our cable wire.

My wife asked him about the Jesus Signs.  He appeared a little uncomfortable about the subject, but said he did make them and that a woman from Florida gave them to him.  So a mysterious woman from Florida was our culprit.

Except it did not end there.  I continued to post these signs on my Flickr Page.  One day I got an e-mail.  A man stated that he was indeed responsible for hanging up the sign.  He was thrilled that I had photographed his signs and felt that my camera had helped the signs reach people all around the world.  His one request was that if I ever saw him hanging a sign (I did one evening, but did not see his face), that I not photograph him as he wanted his message to be the focus, not him as a person.  As proof of his ownership he sent me the following picture of his work shop.

All in all I photographed over 150 of these signs.  A this point I no longer bother to pull over, but they always give me a smile.