Like many teens growing up in rural pockets of America, I couldn't wait to leave Appalachia. Now that I'm older and a parent, I daydream about ways to return to the hills of my childhood. My wife says Appalachia is written in my DNA—how I talk about it, how I see it.
Since the War on Poverty of the 1960s, Appalachia has seen no shortage of photographers. Out of this, a visual vernacular of the region developed. It's become easy, cliché even, to make "those" kinds of photographs—trailers, barefoot children, etc. I'm keenly aware of this dynamic, and I want my work to depart from those stereotypes.
My book project, Testify, began as a statement against mountaintop removal coal mining—though that seemed too reductive for a place of such historical richness—and morphed into an exploration of my past and identity.
To see more of May's work, visit rogermayphotography.com.
- Photo by Roger May
- Former miner James Abshire, who retired after being injured on the job. A mining company had approached him about buying his land; when I made this photograph in 2009, Abshire was struggling with what to do.