The Appalachian Photographers Project is a showcase for both established and emerging photographers from the Southeast. There are currently 14 featured artists, from a region that consists of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.
Atlanta photographer Angela West has exhibited internationally. In her words, her "labor is to discover things in backyard thickets of uncultivated flora, empty intersections of minor streets, patches of lawn in shifting light, and stare at them, all eyes, for as long as it takes to understand, honor and preserve these phenomena with a photograph."
Cathryn Griffin is a professor of photography at Western Carolina University. "If you would stop and really look at things, these things might tell you something," she says. "Colors can make you cry. Then, there is the light. ... Let's just say light reveals the mystery of things over time." Rail Road Tracks, Clyde, N.C., 2007
Frank Hunter teaches photographic process at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. "My intent is to make something of intuition," he says. "I seek a moment that might be seen in any possible future: what it is to be human in this time and in this place."
Mike Smith is a Guggenheim fellow and a professor of art at Eastern Tennessee State University. "The land is defined in relation to those who live on it, work it and rely on its resources. The innate beauty of the hills and hollows resonates as an unwitting setting for a shifting economy."
Builder Levy received the 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship to complete his documentary work spanning 40 years in the Appalachian coalfields. Smith Brothers Mining Company, Williamson, Mingo County, W. Va., 1971.
Tammy Mercure has exhibited internationally and has received numerous awards and grants for her photography. "My main focus," she says," is how we spend our leisure time. Untitled, Cherokee, N.C., 2008
David M. Spear has received many fellowships, including a Guggenheim. This image is from his series The Neugents, which he began photographing in 1987.
Mark Steinmetz is from Atlanta and has taught photography at Harvard University, Yale University, Emory University and Sarah Lawrence College.
"Photographs are about memory," says photographer Rob Amberg. His photos and writing from the rural south have been published internationally, and he has received numerous grants and fellowships.
Mary Tortorici teaches photography at Eastern Kentucky University. "I set out to find some redeeming value in the mundane of vernacular American culture," she says.
Jeff Whetstone says he wants to photograph the "New Wilderness," a landscape he describes as "weeded lots, shallow streams, struggling forests, fallow fields and forgotten woods [that] harbor a thin veil of wilderness around the shrinking farmland and small cites of America."
Mark Wood is an associate professor of art at Chattanooga State Technical Community College. "My current color work is a topographical investigation of this region. Using symbol and narrative, I attempt to connect the viewer with interior and exterior worlds," he says.
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At first glance, they may seem like ordinary photographs of ordinary people and things. And that's because they are. What's truly remarkable about this collection is the command of light, composition and mood that these photographers have mastered. It's a sense of slowness, endurance and simplicty — and humor — that comes across in these images.
A car drives behind a mobile home on the interstate, antique fiddles decorate a wall, underwear hangs to dry on a backyard clothesline: Each photo is a self-contained story, but this entire project will also preserve Appalachia in America's memory for years to come.
It's definitely worth checking out the Web site to learn more about the photographers, read their statements and view their full galleries. Each photographer has a collection of 20 images, which gives a much better idea of what this project is all about. Be sure to check out the Midwest counterpart, too.