Monday, September 03, 2007
you are kindly welcome
In the fall of 1975, I began a photographic project about Appalachian musicians. It was the beginning of my senior year of college, I was a newlywed, and I was turning all of twenty-one years old.
I made several trips to eastern Kentucky, sometimes crossing over into Virginia and Tennessee to seek out musicians – not ones who had established names for themselves; rather, those who had played at family gatherings, at the corner stores or at VFW halls for years - quietly and consistently preserving the traditions of Bluegrass music.
I would pull into small towns (most of them in coal mining areas) and asked whomever I saw if they knew of any pickers, singers or fiddlers. I was hardly ever disappointed; perfect strangers would point the way up this hollow or that, where I would then find myself in the company of a welcoming banjo, fiddle, dulcimer, mandolin or guitar player.
I lugged my own banjo around on those trips, as well as my Hasselblad camera.
By the spring, I had enough photos to make a limited edition book, which I printed on an old Vandercook letterpress printing press. A woman I met along the way made quilted covers for these hardbound books; I made an edition of twenty, each of which had silver gelatin prints tipped into beveled pages.
A few years ago, my mother ran across one of the books, entitled “You are Kindly Welcome” at a rare bookstore in Lexington. Turns out the University of Kentucky bought it for their book collection. (We were floored when we heard what they paid for it!) Anyhow, to this day, I do not have even one copy of that, my first completed hand made photo book. I wish I did.
I do have the negatives, however. Here is one of the images from the book. It’s a portrait I made of W.R. and Dahlia who lived just outside of Hazard, Kentucky.