Roger May is a documentary photographer, who lives and works in Raleigh NC, but was raised in West Virginia on the Kentucky border.
Roger runs a great blog called: Walk your camera, where he discusses Appalachia and how it’s represented-primarily through the Art of Photography. I first became enamored with Roger May’s work last year when he wrote about all the hoopla surrounding CNN’s showcase of Stacy Kranitz’s photo series “Regression to the Mean,” which raised more than a few hackles among devotees of Appalachia.
Over the last several months, Roger has been working on a fascinating project called Testify. I could tell you all about it-but I’d rather let Roger tell you about the project and what it means to him.
Testify written by Roger May
Testify is a visual love letter to Appalachia, the land of my blood. This is my testimony of how I came to see the importance of home and my connection to place. After moving away as a teenager, I’ve struggled to return, to latch on to something from my memory. These images are a vignette into my working through the problem of the construction of memory versus reality. My work embraces the raw beauty of the mountains while keeping at arms length the stereotypical images that have tried to define Appalachia for decades.
The word ‘testify’ carries both a religious and legal meaning. In the churches of home, it’s common for a portion of time during a church service to be devoted to allowing members to share publicly what God has done in their lives; to give their testimony. In legal terms, one’s testimony is a statement accepted, sworn under oath, believed to be true and acceptable.
I am both an insider and an outsider and though I maintain a safe distance in my photographs, I attempt to invite you into the intimacy of family, of sacred space. Testify is my bearing witness of a personal journey, of never truly being able to go home again, to seek answers from my ancestral home. Appalachia testifies of timelessness and natural beauty. The mountains testify of protection and sanctuary and at the same time the horrible destruction of mountaintop removal mining. The people of Appalachia testify of their pride and resilience. Old time religion testifies of the power in the blood and a heavenly home just across the shore.
My grandfather told me that I have two ears and one mouth, which means that I should listen twice as often as I speak. Through these images, I’ve tried to do just that – to listen more than I speak, both with my voice and my cameras. These images arise out of my pride of where I am from and where I am of, and an enduring love for Appalachia.
This is my testimony.
Click here to view the photographs from Roger May’s series Testify. (just click on each photo to go to the next one-and notice each photo has a description below it.)
I enjoyed the photos in the series because they resonate with me-with my thoughts and feelings about Appalachia. In my humble opinion Roger’s photos are more representative of Appalachia as a whole than the propped up pitiful photos that are often used as a narrative of Appalachia.
I also liked the words (Roger’s testimony) which accompanies his collection of photographs. His grandfather telling him he had 2 ears and 1 mouth -so that meant he should listen more than he spoke-reminded me of one of Pap’s sayings: The smartest man in the room is usually the quietest.
I hope you enjoyed Roger’s series Testify.