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EYES ON THE SOUTH: Stacy Kranitz

In her series As it was Give(n) to me... Stacy Kranitz take us to Appalachia, a region often misunderstood and pigeonholed as the face of poverty in America. Kranitz writes:

In January of 1964, Lyndon B Johnson’s announced the War on Poverty during his State of the Union address. LBJ believed that the US had the resources to end poverty in our time and used the rhetoric of war to rally the greater population around this issue. He wanted to find ways to significantly change the lives of those people who were left out of the American dream. The initiatives focused on expanding the role of education and health care, public housing, unemployment, and the creation of community development programs.

News organizations descended on Appalachia to put a face to this War on Poverty. Appalachia was the poster child. Journalists focused on Central Appalachia, depicting it as an unseemly place to live. This image has haunted its people ever since. Those responsible for these media misrepresentations had the best of intentions, but ultimately these depictions contributed to unfair stereotypes of a rural group of people who already felt ostracized from the “Great Society.”

Representing place is a complicated series of negotiations. How can the photographer demystify stereotypes, represent culture, sum up experience, interpret memory and history? I create a fantasy world for myself. My perceptions and fantasies rival my desire to provide a realistic portrayal of where I am, especially because the idea of a “realistic portrayal” is a fantasy. My work is about the tension between these two desires. If in fact they are two. Maybe they are just one.

I did not want to make images that reinforced mass media’s view of Appalachia as a poverty-ridden region. I also did not want to ignore the poverty and only showcase selectively positive things happening there, to offset these stereotypes. Both of these options are equally problematic. I do not make claims that I have any authoritative view of the region. Instead I want to carve out a new path that references the history of mass media’s outsider, one-dimensional perspective while also immersing the viewer in a complicated history of representation.

Rutland, Ohio

Xerox copy of William Ranney’s painting "Daniel Boone's First View of Kentucky" (1849)

Pine Mountain, Kentucky

Tracings by Stacy Kranitz from the book Appalachia: A Regional Geography: Land, People and Development, Figure 4.8 Counties Prohibiting Sale of Distiled Spirits, 1980

Cherokee, North Carolina

From the Southern Appalachian Archives at Berea College, The D.K. Wilgus Folklore Collection 1918-1989

Dowelltown, Tennessee

Black Mountain, Virginia

From the Southern Appalachian Archives at Berea College, The D.K. Wilgus Folklore Collection 1918-1989

Martin, Kentucky

Martinsville, Virginia

Xerox copy of Karl Bodmer’s "Capture of the Daughters of D. Boone and Callaway by Indians" (1852)

Dowelltown, Tennessee

West Columbia, West Virginia

From the Southern Appalachian Archives at Berea College, Appalachian Religious Survey Records, 1931-1933

Marietta, Ohio

Freeburn, Kentucky

Hazard, Kentucky

Langsville, Ohio

New Haven, West Virginia—Photograph by Marisha Camp of Stacy Kranitz making out with Colby

Logan, West Viginia

From the Southern Appalachian Archives at Berea College, The D.K. Wilgus Folklore Collection 1918-1989

Owenton, Kentucky

Morehead, Kentucky

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Logan, West Virginia

Newport, Tennessee

Evarts, Kentucky

Chapmanville, West Virginia

Rutland, Ohio

From the Speak Your Piece column in the Letcher County, Kentucky’s weekly newspaper The Mountain Eagle

Williamson, West Virginia

Stacy Kranitz studied film and photography at New York University and the University of California, Irvine. She has been working on long-form documentary projects for 8 years. Her work investigates the theoretical underpinnings that bind together the evolution of the documentary tradition. She looks to explore important social issues while commenting on this tradition and challenging its boundaries. Stacy has worked as a photographer for publications including Elle, ESPN, Fortune, The New York Times Magazine, Rolling Stone, Stern, Vice, and Wired magazine. To see more of her work visit her website:


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