More than a decade ago, I arrived broken hearted in Ohio. Somehow I found myself in the haunting hills, the winding roads, in run-down bars, in the living rooms and bedrooms of these forgotten communities. I discovered a sense of family and belonging. I met a woman and fell in love. I started a family of my own.
There’s a place where two roads meet in Mineral, Ohio. At the intersection sits an old church connected to a food pantry. If you follow the wood-paneled walls to the front, above the pulpit hangs a sign that says, “Come Expecting.” I never come expecting much, but find that magic exists everywhere here. The rolling hills become your church; weed and whiskey are your sacrament, the savior is whatever/whomever can take you out of this broken place. The worship song is some twangy country tune or “Oxycontin” by Lil Wyte. You pray for the past boom to return, with little thought of the busted present or the unknowable future. What future can be expected from a life here?
Mining corporations stripped Appalachia of its resources from the 1820s to the 1960s. After taking all that they could, the corporations departed, leaving former boomtowns with little but their cultural identity. When you think of Ohio, stereotypes of Appalachian poverty may spring to mind. For the past ten years, I have made pictures of the people of this region as they attempt to recover in the aftermath of extractive industry. What I have discovered transcends any stereotype – despite circumstances, these proud Americans persevere and cling to family, community, and land with an admirable tenacity.
This place is a microcosm of a story that plays out around our country and around the world. History repeats itself. Our collective memory favors the convenience of amnesia over acknowledging the damage that we continue to inflict upon ourselves. Photography is the antidote. This collection of images is my love song to Ohio.