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Joe Johnson photographs the empty interiors of the vast post-modern industrial spaces across America which have become "mega churches." Megalithic in size, these converted Hilton hotels and restored theaters are transformed into halls of prayer each Sunday through performative rituals and multimedia spectacles, inspiring thousands of Christian worshippers. A minimum of 2,000 worshippers must attend the weekend service for the building to attain the "Mega Church" status. Using the descriptive power of photography, Johnson constructs a personal vocabulary to investigate subjects that have some inherent tension and mystery.

The photographs in his Mega Church Project attempt to reveal the mechanics of creating faith by capturing the wires, computers, light bulbs, and cords that are used to construct mysteries on stage for the faithful. The rawness of the abandoned mega-space and the eerie familiarity of its commercial fixtures question the intention and business of faith in the 21st century.

Aperture offers special limited-edition prints by the winner and runners-up of the annual Aperture Portfolio Prize.  In choosing the first-prize winner and runners-up, we are looking for work that is fresh and that hasn't been widely seen in major publications or exhibition venues.  Proceeds from the sales of these prints will benefit both the artists and Aperture Foundation.

Joe Johnson (b. 1978) holds a BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute and an MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, both in photography. He has participated in both solo and group shows throughout the United States, including at Gallery Kayafas in Boston. Johnson is currently assistant professor of photography at the University of Missouri. 

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