Monday, January 16, 2012


Someone once said that every good lie has a nugget of truth in it. If you go to Google images and search for "Appalachia," you'll find lots of black and white photos, images of poverty, and other stereotypical scenes. I've often joked that to photograph Appalachia, you must do it in winter, when it's raining, and use black and white film. It helps if you can include images of trains of coal cars, or miners, or musicians, or snake handlers.

It's raining today and going into Flat Fork Valley, one of the most beautiful spots in creation, by the way, I drove past this old, abandoned, home site. I've passed it many times; I've even photographed it before, but never in the rain. It's winter, so I had two out of three criteria. Since I no longer shoot film, PhotoShop took care of the rest. The result is a stereotypical Appalachian photograph, except like so many such photos we see, it's a lie. Yes, there is poverty in Appalachia. Yes, there is substandard housing in Appalachia. Yes, there are some churches that handle snakes in Appalachia. And thankfully, there are musicians in Appalachia. But none of these is the rule.

The Appalachian writer Sharyn McCrumb has frequently said that her mission in life is to show people that the movie "Deliverance" was not a documentary. Likewise, "The Beverly Hillbillies" was not reality TV. We have our warts and they are easily found, but they don't begin to cover the landscape. And about those Google images? Some of them are more than 75 years old.


  1. Good photo! Good writing, Jim!!! You are preaching to the choir. We need to always confront the stereotypes and those who promote them. The H word is no different than the N word, the Q word, the K word, or any of those other words. But, remember this about Jed Clampett. He always won and he always did it with his mind.

  2. The North of England tends to have the same problem (dark sooty mills, terraced houses, flat caps and whippets!). As with all stereotypes, there's a grain of truth that got the idea started... but both you and I do a good job of puncturing the stereotypes on our blogs, I think.
    And no, no problem with commenting here.

  3. I loved this post! And Sharyn McCrumb is one of my favorite authors.

  4. I agree... my dad's family is from the top of the Blue Ridge Mtns. in Sparta NC... I love the area where you live... so beautiful, you are blessed!