Photos of Appalachia – The Washington Post
For more than a decade, photographer Stacy Kranitz has worked in Appalachia. The fruits of that labor are now available in his book, “As it was given to me”, recently published by Twin Palms Publishers.
Much of the photographic work that has emanated from Appalachia over the years has proven both controversial and emotionally charged. Most of the time, the very people who live in the area have objected to what they believe to be an inaccurate portrayal of their lives.
This is very understandable as much of the work has focused on the poverty and “backwardness” of Appalachia. But of course, Appalachia is much more complex than these kinds of representations.
In a sense, Kranitz’s book seeks to provide a means of encountering the region more accurately, acknowledging the problem than previous depictions of place and people. The publisher’s description of the book on its website gives us the following to contemplate:
“For the past twelve years, Stacy Kranitz has photographed the Appalachian region of the United States to explore how photography can solidify or demystify stereotypes, and interpret memory and history in a region where the medium failed to provide a fair view. representation of his people. Rather than reinforcing conventional views of Appalachia as a region plagued by poverty, or selectively dwelling on the positive aspects of the place and its people to offset problematic stereotypes, this work insists that each of these options is an equally problematic way to look at the place.
Long-format photographic works are, in essence, a kind of proposition brought into the world. Once there, the work is open to the viewer’s interpretation. This is really the case with any type of creative effort intended to communicate in a larger sense. This is of course the case with “As It Was Give(n) To Me”.
Kranitz’s book is full of the kind of images that have caused angst over the years – there’s poverty, religious snake masters, coal miners – a lot of the kind of images we’re used to to see Appalachia. But there is much more than that.
Throughout the book are artifacts – pressed plants that Kranitz picked up without taking photographs – as well as excerpts from a local diary of people sharing their thoughts on life. If the book manages to go beyond the stereotypical representation of Appalachia, it is not so much because of the photographs, but in the combination of all the elements it contains.
The photographs, on their own, can be quite sublime at times. There are powerful images. But the real star of the book, for me, are the emotionally charged words taken from a weekly column in The Mountain Eagle, a Whitesburgh, Ky. newspaper. These, along with the plants and cobwebs that Kranitz collected, bring the whole company together. . And it is only through this combination of elements that the idea of presenting another perception of the region is realized.
Once you start experiencing all the elements together, and not JUST the photographs, a more nuanced narrative of Appalachia begins to reveal itself. There are, and have been, arguments circulating that photographs never really tell the truth. Instead, they are mostly impressions. And that may be all we can hope for. With that in mind, “As It Was Give(n) To Me” is an important collection of Kranitz’s impressions, sometimes profound, sometimes mundane, over the years. This book is his proposition thrown out into the world, ready to be accepted, denied, or communed with.
You can read more about the book, and buy it, here.