Roger May, whose photographic portraits of Appalachia and its people have been featured in national and international media, will display some of his work and discuss the issues involved in depicting Appalachia, on Thursday, March 28. His presentation begins at 5:30 p.m. in UNC Asheville’s Karpen Hall, Laurel Forum, and is free and open to everyone.
Born in the Tug River Valley on the West Virginia and Kentucky border – “in the heart of Hatfield and McCoy country,” as he states in his online bio – May has worked to broaden and diversify the images and conceptions Americans have of his home region. His Looking at Appalachia project, an ongoing crowdsourced archive and traveling exhibit now in its fifth year, moves to the Massillon Museum in Massillon, Ohio, opening March 23.
May began Looking at Appalachia during the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s announced War on Poverty, which became associated with images of Johnson together with white, rural poor folk on run-down Appalachian porches – images that, according to May, helped cement stereotypes of the region. “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,” wrote May. “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.”
May’s own photographs have been published by The New York Times, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Al Jazeera America, National Geographic, ESPN, HuffPost, Oxford American, Le Monde diplomatique, and others.
His writings include Looking Without Fear, a 2014 essay in Oxford American’s series, Portraying Appalachia. “In looking at Appalachia – not just from the outside, but from within as well – we reveal more about ourselves as observers than the region objectively. The subjects show us shades of our own individuality. That’s not easy to unpack, or even admit to, but I think it is why some depictions of Appalachia make us uncomfortable,” wrote May.
May’s presentation is sponsored by UNC Asheville’s Department of English and many other university programs and offices. For more information, contact Professor of English Erica Abrams Locklear, email@example.com.