Skip to main content

Looking at Appalachia Photographs

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared unconditional war on poverty in the United States and nowhere was this war more photographed than Appalachia. A quick Google image search of "war on poverty" will yield several photographs of President Johnson on the porch of the Fletcher family home in Inez, Kentucky.

Many of the War on Poverty photographs, whether intentional or not, became a visual definition of Appalachia. These images have often drawn from the poorest areas and people to gain support for the intended cause, but unjustly came to represent the entirety of the region while simultaneously perpetuating stereotypes.

In an attempt to explore the diversity of Appalachia and establish a visual counter point, this project looks at Appalachia fifty years after the declaration of the War on Poverty. Drawing from a diverse population of photographers within the region, this new crowdsourced image archive will serve as a reference that is defined by its people as opposed to political legislation.

This project is now in its fifth year and is open to submissions from 1 January - 31 December each calendar year. This project is designed and directed by Roger May.

Throughout 2016-18, series were displayed in the WVU Downtown Campus Library. In 2019, May donated several works from 2014-16 to WVU Art in the Libraries. This is a selection from the donated works.