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.