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Thread: Faces and Places of Appalachia

  1. #51

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sampson View Post
    Both Dorothea Lange and Paul Strand would have been proud to make these portraits.
    Have you ever exhibited this work, or had it published anywhere?
    These pictures, the portraits and the others, deserve a wider audience than on this site.
    Thanks for the kind comments.

    In 2009 the East Tennessee Historical Society hosted an exhibit of 97 of my Appalachian images. It contained not only silver gelatin images but audio tracks of many of the people and events shown in the show. We had soundtracks of a serpent handling service, cock fight and other events plus audio interviews of many of the subjects in the photos. We also had many artifacts on display like a jug of moonshine, KKK robe, serpent carrier plus many other items. The show was open for 7 months and then toured museums across the US for almost 8 years. I and my friend who recorded the soundtracks donated the show plus many more images to a special collection to house them. I’ve willed my negatives and prints to the special collection when I’m finished with them. The name of the show is Vanishing Appalachia.

    My friend who did the audio is a professional writer and my wife is a retired creative director and excellent designer. The three of us put together a small book on the late moonshiner Popcorn Sutton that has been very successful. We’re no longer printing it but probably sold 25,000 copies or more. I think amazon still prints it but their paper quality and printing lack a lot. I’ll post a photo of the cover.

    I have an open invitation to produce another exhibit and need to talk to the folks at the history center about a grant to fund it. Printing a couple hundred 11x14 archival silver gelatin prints plus archival framing of 100 images plus promotional material and crates to ship it is quite expensive.

    I’d love to do a book but again cost is very high for a book that probably would have limited interest although if a grant came along I’d be happy to do it.
    Thanks again all!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails FB77682C-6A34-4EC0-B3B6-316963C5AE3A.jpeg  

  2. #52

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    I wanted to point out that only 5 images here were digitally captured. IMO digital is just too clean and perfect. There’s a depth and grit (not grain) with film that just can’t be achieved with digital. The rest were captured on 35mm to 8x10 film.

  3. #53
    Drew Wiley
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    SF Bay area, CA

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    Yes, exhibitions are a lot of work. But maybe you could prioritize on printing very select images first. Just a hint. They might not tell the whole story you have intended to document. But certain pictures potentially carry a full story within themselves. I'm a printmaker, so naturally focus on squeezing the most possible out of a promising negative. And if you'll allow me to re-reference that one particular image of the older woman holding the book, it's not that she's quaint or odd, but because she's wearing many layers of memory and emotion below the surface, which her expression and pose subtly mirrors. It's a replete unwritten story in itself, with the viewer left to fill in the blanks, just like the picture she holds contains a wealth of emotions and memories really only known to herself. I'm not a people photographer myself, but as I've already stated, grew up in an analogous situation among cowboys, Indians, and potentially violent rebels, which in my own way I have tried to document in other ways. It takes an inside track to understand their humanity and sufferings, even if much of that has gotten derailed into dishonorable activities. Once in a great while, a photographer comes along who can, at least in a few instances, encapsulate an impression within a discrete image. Even the greatest documentary photographers are remembered by only a few key images. As we all get older, it's helpful to prioritize what we can realistically get done, and what we can't. Under current circumstances, I don't know the future of grants, but these kinds of images certainly need a wider audience. It's the kind of thing Ken Burns might like to get his hands on, especially since you have some audio too. Even footage of my own father appeared in a PBS documentary about Calif water wars, and Ken Burn's segment on Jonestown was largely based on the teenage memories of our next door neighbor. Who knows?

  4. #54

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    Thanks Drew, really appreciate your comments. I actually have printed several hundred of my favorite images and have them mounted with archival mats and cases. I wanted a set for myself of my favorite images and will be handing those over to the history center sometime down the road. Vanderbilt University has also expressed interest but things have stalled there. The Tennessee state museum also purchased a set of images of the late moonshiner Popcorn Sutton and has exhibited those and is planning on adding more images now they’ve completed their new facility.

    About two years ago I was interviewed and appeared in the Ken Burns Vietnam documentary. He also used a number of my 60’s images from my college days. I’m always willing to work with people like Ken.

    I’m still printing from the archive but at a slower pace. I’m in my 70’s and arthritis has a grip on me but I’m still determined to continue even if it’s a bit slower. I’m pretty meticulous about my printing and only print 4 negs per session. My best negs always seem to be the most difficult to print too.

    My partner in this show that did the soundtracks and writing most likely will not be able to help in the next venture. Tom’s a bit older than me and late last year had a major stroke and two less severe this year. His mind says let’s do the next show but his body just can’t do it. Fortunately I’m in very good health except arthritis.

  5. #55
    Drew Wiley
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    SF Bay area, CA

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    Oh now it clicks! Yes, now I recognize you from the Vietnam documentary, which I viewed multiple times. I've over 70 myself, and am prioritizing my own collection. I generally make a master print for reference, then a very limited number of secondaries. Museum board is now quite expensive, so I rarely mount more than two of the same image unless there is a demand. Mounting big color images is even more expensive, so I rarely mount those except for specific purchase or exhibition usage, which is a low priority at the moment. There's just too much I'd still like to do with my time while I am relatively agile. I got my gout under control through medication, but each year have to be a little more careful in the mountains. The hill culture I knew is almost entirely extinct, and is getting gradually replaced by creeping development, retirement communities, Indian casino culture, and sadly, a lot of meth and illegal pot farming. But lots of it still too rugged or officially protected to change much except in the catastrophic manner forest fires now behave. The second biggest ponderosa pine forest in the world where I routinely roamed in now 99% dead trees. Lower and much higher, the effects of climate change are more subtle, but real. Most of the glaciers are already gone. But at my age, I won't be doing any more ice scrambling. Crossing a few patches here and there will be thrill enough. But I feel much safer there than around certain human categories. Take care.

  6. #56

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    Now that we've had a little preaching lets talk about moonshine. I spent three years photographing the life of the late and questionably great Popcorn Sutton. He was truly a piece of work. Sweet some times and violent other times. Popcorn told me he murdered two men and married or at least lived with and loved 12 women. He made 12 children with twelve different women and only knew one child, Regina who is the only one to really excel in life. Regina is a MD and trauma surgeon in Alaska. Popcorn loved BIG women even though he weighed in at 85 pounds. He attracted some amazing women like his second wife who has a PhD and is a molecular biologist.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Pop and still 4.jpg   Popcorns Gate.jpg   Popcorns Still #1.jpg   Popcorn Juggin.jpg  

  7. #57

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    A few more.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Pop 29.jpg   Pop and still 3.jpg   Pop burner system 8.jpg   Pop 15.jpg  

  8. #58

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    More to come.

    The first photo is the last picture I made of him before his death. Popcorn kept his coffin in his bedroom and was obsessed with is death. Strange that he took his own life.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Pop 1.jpg   Popcorn casket A 5.jpg   Marvin Popcorn Sutton 3_3-07 17.jpg   Popcorn tracking A 3.jpg  

  9. #59

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Dudenbostel View Post
    the life of the late and questionably great Popcorn Sutton.
    Ha, did you ever see this bit of street art off of Market Square?
    popcorn1 by J Barnes, on Flickr

    At any rate, very glad to see you gathering all these accolades--as I mentioned before, these are very familiar people and scenes to me (though mine own "Our Southern Highlanders" took place in the Ouachitas/Kiamichis of the Trans-Mississippi West.)

  10. #60
    Join Date
    Mar 2011

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    I've always respected people who live their life on their own terms (including taking their life when they're done), even if they make choices I wouldn't. That's why I have no problem with people who want to test their faith by handling serpents, even though I well know that I do not have the faith required to grab onto a rattlesnake in church and trust the gods to protect me. I've also never jumped 50 or 100 ft on a dirt bike, despite riding them for years as a teenager. I never saw the point, but that doesn't mean I think the people who do it are wrong or somehow unbreakable.

    Should I ask how often Mr. Sutton blew up his still(s)? I didn't see a lot of safety valves and fire blankets in those photos.

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