As it was Give(n) to Me is an archive of collected images, text, and objects that traces exploration and extraction in central Appalachia. These documents reflect on our relationship to representations of reality and the inherent flaws and ruptures in constructed notions of truth.

Since the late 19th century the Appalachian region was devastated by the coal industry that took valuable resources from the land, leaving the people who lived there impoverished. In the 1960’s a War on Poverty was declared. The government decided it would put an end to poverty in America. They chose Appalachia as the poster child for the war. Photographers descended on Appalachia to make images that would help unite Americans around the effort to improve the lives of a destitute and struggling people. Instead, the photographers offered a simplistic and superficial image of poverty that has haunted the Appalachian people ever since.

While making this work, it became clear that I was part of a legacy of photographers utilizing a medium that empowered a problem. How can the photographer represent a region where the medium has failed the people?

I began by reckoning with the fact that I had come to Appalachia with a fantasy of what I wanted it to be. I realized this fantasy undermined my desire to provide an objective portrayal because objectivity in documentary photography is its own kind of fantasy. This work became about the tension between these two desires.

This work does not claim to be an authoritative view of the region. It does not illustrate a certain type of injustice in hopes of remedying it. I’ve come to Appalachia to open up a new kind of narrative that examines our understanding of culture and place in a way that is poised between notions of right and wrong.