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Thread: Faces and Places of Appalachia

  1. #21

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    Here are a few more images. Some have been previously posted in other threads but thought they fit here too. Hope you enjoy. The third photo is a man named Lendall Abbott. He was born in a log cabin in what now is Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountain National park. He's a true mountain man. Tiny in stature but is amazing in talent. He's a fantastic guitar player and carves these tiny animals with his pocket knife out of peach seeds. All three of the people pictured are accomplished musicians. The lady and Lendall gather with friends ar Rock Branch School in Blount county on occasion and make music into the late night.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Zornes0094.jpg   singer 6177.jpg   Lendall.jpg   Lendall 5875.jpg  

  2. #22

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    Faith is a huge part of Appalachian life. Some practices are a bit different like serpent handling. Serpent handling as written in the Book of Mark says they shall take up deadly serpents and drink deadly things and speak in unknown tongues. I've been to more than fifty serpent handling services in remote areas of the mountains and have witnesses handling cobras, rattlers, copperheads and other deadly serpents as well as drinking strychnine and using a torch on themselves. I can tell you you're never prepared to see a man standing 3 ft from you get bitten by a 6ft rattlesnake.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Morrow.jpg   Morrow 5.jpg   Morrow 9.jpg  

  3. #23
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    Snake handling? You do know how the founder of that cult died, don't you? Predictably. The Hopis snake dancers would shake them around so much that the snakes were disoriented most of the time. I picked up a young diamondback rattler with only a button off the front porch when I was just 3 yrs old. Those are the most dangerous kind because they don't know how to meter out their venom yet. To this day I remember the look on my parents faces as they tried to coax me to lay the snake down on the rake. It's amazing it didn't bite me. I thought it was a giant earthworm. But you have certainly found a niche. It would be nice to collect these into a published book sometime for the sake of posterity.

  4. #24
    (Shrek)
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    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    I admit I don't know the full history of Appalachian snake-handling churches, but I was under the impression that it dated back to the 1920s or earlier. I am surprised they allow photography, though come to think of it there was a little dust-up when one photographer documented the death of one leader who was bitten, his family and flock thought it was disrespectful to show him that way.

    I am not part of that community, of course, but I do not find it abnormal or outside of the Christian tradition in any way. It's not for me to judge, but if you believe in the Bible, there is certainly solid grounds for their faith.

  5. #25

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    Drew thanks for your story.

    The practice of serpent handling in Appalachia started in Cleveland TN a little over 100 years ago with George Hensley, a member of the Church of God. George picked out several verses from the book of Mark which instructed Gods followers to take up serpents. The practice spread through Appalachia and actually across the US although it was primarily in the Appalachian region. At one time thousands engaged in the practice.

    Eventually George and his wife were booted out of the church but serpent handling continued to this day. It’s now rarely practiced except in a hand full of churches. I’ve been to three churches and know of a couple more. Families have encouraged members to abandon the practice for obvious reasons. I’ve known one preacher and a number of friends family members die from serpent bites or poisoning. Strychnine and red devil lie drain cleaner are sometimes consumed during services. Also a torch will often be used to confirm ones faith.

    Interesting, people often ask if a person dies if they were sinners or lacked faith. The answer is no, it was their time to die and nothing more. This is a very obscure practice now and difficult to understand why anyone would do this. Simply put, it’s not to prove anything, it’s to confirm their faith.

    Let me say I do not practice this faith!

    In response to Jody, it often takes years to get to know people and be trusted. I’ve gotten to know one of the preachers like a brother and he’s been instrumental in my documenting moonshiners, several serpent handlers, cock fights and people I could never have been allowed to photograph. Jimmy, the preacher, is truly a kind and gentle person that can see right trough you and knows your heart. Jimmy is one of the kindest and most loving people I’ve ever known. He’s an example for all of us and the world would be a much better place if we had more Jimmies. Again I don’t practice his faith but I appreciate his love and dedication to it. And no these people are not crazy, they’re the most dedicated to their faith of anyone I’ve ever met.

  6. #26
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    Well, I grew up in an analogous hill country setting here in the West, but where being nosy with a camera might get you shot, and I'm well aware of the colorful but blatant abuse of the Gospel of Mark within certain poorly educated circles. The Middle Ages had their own trials by Ordeal. And I'm sure as heck familiar with rattlesnakes. My next door neighbor came from rural Appalachia (WV), and her almost fatalistic attitude toward premature deaths among family members due to mine accidents or medical negligence astounded me. But she herself is now over 100, living with her granddaughter now. Speaking of blind faith... my nephew and his buddy had just returned from doing an especially difficult climb in Yosemite, and another high school pal wanted to feel macho too, so when they encountered a rattler on one of the Reservations that weekend, the kid said, Do you know that if you pick up a rattlesnake by the tail it can't bite you? So that's what he did. They walked him down to the creek to keep his hand in cold water, then one of them took the uphill hike back to the car, then to the nearest phone. It took three hours for an ambulance to arrive from the city. They saved his hand; but it being swollen the size of a baseball glove, and being in the hospital for two weeks, certainly taught him a lesson or two about folklore! The occasional fatal cases were mostly speedboaters up from the city who would come ashore in a bathing suit, get bitten in grass near the shoreline where the diamondbacks hung out waiting for mice, and then panic, run, and get the toxin circulated rapidly. Being all worked up in a fanatical setting would be analogous, I suppose, with the heart pumping fast. I've witnessed similar scenarios, just minus the snakes. It's amazing they allow you to freely photograph.

  7. #27

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    Drew I’ve witnessed men getting bitten by rattlesnakes and can tell you it only takes 45 seconds for the venom to hit the central nervous system. Within a couple of minutes breathing becomes difficult and profuse sweating starts. Hallucinations can occur and severe pain is guaranteed. I’ve seen a man get bitten on the finger and within a few hours his arm became so swollen the skin split. No thanks!

    In response to another comment, a book is possible but funding has to happen. It’s a very expensive venture these days. Even if a book doesn’t happen, the East Tennessee Historical Society, myself and a close friend put together a pretty major exhibit of 97 silver gelatin prints, sound tracks and artifacts relating to the photos that toured museums for seven years. I donated about 200 silver prints to the museum and they’ve established a special collection for educational study. In time when I am finished with my negatives they’ll inherit about 100,000 B&W negatives. All will be in the collection accessible for study. Another collection is housed in the museum as well, The Thompson Collection. Jim Thompson documented the area from the late 1800 until the 1960’s when I became very active and my work picks up where his left off. Thompson was more centered around the city of Knoxville and my images relate more to the Appalachian culture of the region.

    I have an open invitation to do another show and will do so if we can obtain a grant to cover costs. It’s expensive to print a couple hundred 11x14 archival silver gelatin prints and archival frame, crate and store them.

  8. #28

    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    There’s a misconception that serpent handlers are uneducated. I know one of them that has two masters degrees and is upper management in one the the largest corporations in the US. I watched Mark handle a King Cobra right in front of me. Marks younger brother was bitten on the face in a service by a rattler and died in 15 minutes. I stood in the middle of 3 men with rattlers and one with a cobra in Middlesbrough Ky and one of the men is a multi millionaire from Atlanta. The people are very diverse.

    I’ll post some images from a KKK / neo-nazi meeting and cross burning. One of the people there was a professor of nursing at a major medical university and has a PhD. I was the only outsider allowed in because of reputation and connections. Again I’m not a part of this and do not endorse what they do or believe. I’m only three to preserve what they do for history.

    I’ll post some more images this week that’ll be a little shocking.

  9. #29
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    Rattlesnake venom works by destroying red blood cells. It's not a CNS venom; but coral snake venom operates that way, perhaps other southeast snakes. I spent quite a few weekends collecting reptiles with a herpetologist, and have a degree in field biology myself. He got bitten a couple times by a caged sidewinder, but they're one of the least deadly. I do hope you find some book funding. And I'm not questioning your observations, but there's probably more than one factor involved, including the hysterical element, for lack of a better expression, which makes it so interesting. How educated people get drawn into cults amazes me, but I've seen it happen in this part of the world many many times. Perhaps gullible would have been a better term than uneducated. The handful of Jonestown survivors meet once a month right on this street, at least until this virus crisis, and they now have numerous children and grandchildren, and are spending their whole lives trying to sort that mess out. Talk about close calls.

  10. #30

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    Re: Faces and Places of Appalachia

    This is great work (again) Don, many thx for showing these

    If I had to pick my proverbial favourite, then it's number one of your first post, the two local girls

    regards

    Andrew

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