Last weekend we returned to my homeland in Doddridge County. I went for a run Saturday morning, along the the same route my dad and I measured out when I first started running back in middle school. The half mile marker is the big sycamore right next to the road, and the mile marker is in a bend that overlooks the Jozwick farm. That farm has undergone quite a transformation over the past few years and is now home to a truly astonishing collection of outbuildings, animal pens, vehicles, metal scraps, and not a small number of cows and goats. The difference is so marked that I can't help but stare as I run by. Every time I get the urge to return and document it all with my camera. Same with the trailer down the road, which has recently been painted canary yellow, and is adorned by a collection of antlers and a confederate flag. (This is its second fabulous incarnation; just a year ago it was Pepto Bismol pink.)
I haven't taken these pictures though, because I'm not sure it's ok to do. I'm having a hard time finding the line between documenting reality and perpetuating existing stereotypes of Appalachia. Roger May discusses this issue quite a bit on his blog and on the site he created for his publicly sourced photo project, Looking at Appalachia. I've read his posts and I'm now sensitized to the issue, but I'm still not sure whether that means taking pictures of what is essentially poverty writ large is something I should do. And yet I want to, every time. It's just so interesting to me how these things look.
Temperatures rose this weekend, finally, and we took a lovely drive in my dad's truck, exploring an old family cemetery we spotted atop a hill, and stopping to capture these unbelievable tree shadows.
After that we went to a friend's house just outside of Morgantown, where these two cowboys played and played. I love being in the country, where things seem so simple. But this is no charming bucolic landscape. The land where I grew up, and even here, in West Virginia's most touted metropolis, is tarnished by trash, yards filled with messy collections, and unfinished projects.
But what to do? Put on blinders like people do in the city where they come in contact with so many people they can't bear to notice all of them? Notice the reality but accept it as inevitable? Or try to "fix" the problem, imposing solutions on people who are set in their ways and may not have money to do anything other than what they've already done? I just don't know.