Like many teens growing up in rural pockets of America, I couldn’t wait to leave Appalachia. Now that I’m older and a parent, I daydream about ways to return to the hills of my childhood. My wife says Appalachia is written in my DNAhow I talk about it, how I see it.

Since the War on Poverty of the 1960s, Appalachia has seen no shortage of photographers. Out of this, a visual vernacular of the region developed. It’s become easy, cliché even, to make “those” kinds of photographstrailers, barefoot children, etc. I’m keenly aware of this dynamic, and I want my work to depart from those stereotypes.

My book project, Testify, began as a statement against mountaintop removal coal miningthough that seemed too reductive for a place of such historical richnessand morphed into an exploration of my past and identity.

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