"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Monday, June 30, 2014

eastern kentucky

Am I really old enough to say casually, "I did that project 39 YEARS AGO?"

Well, yes, actually I am.

Back in 1975 and 1976, when I was an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin, I did a body of work that was kind of in my own Kentucky (where I grew up) backyard. I ventured into the hills and hollers of the Appalachian mountains to photograph bluegrass musicians. I produced a hand-made letterpress book featuring some of the pictures. It is called You Are Kindly Welcome.

Some of the towns I visited are in Clay County. In a recent NYT article, Clay County, Kentucky was named dead last in the state for quality of life, with devastatingly grim statistics in the areas of education, income, employment, disability rates, life expectancy and obesity rates. 

There's a lot that has gone wrong in eastern Kentucky over the years. If you're interested in reading the article, click here.

After reading the piece, I decided to fill up my Prius, pack my camera bag and hit I-70 east.

Before climbing into my car, I dug up the work from my previous trips to eastern Kentucky. Thanks to digital technology, I was able to scan and sort of salvage some pretty awful negatives (I underexposed everything when I was 21!)

Now I am on a mission to revisit these same areas and perhaps even find some of the same families (one in particular with whom I spent a great deal of time). I'm heading out today, my beat up road atlas in hand. I'll keep you posted as to what I find. In the meantime, here are a few of the images I made back in the dark ages.

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