Beautiful, In Its Way - West Virginia / by sam taylor

Beautiful, In Its Way - West Virginia

Good Friday Morning!

In the 5 years (whoa!) since I started this little operation, I’ve been able to watch some trends and tropes emerge in the work and storytelling I do, and I wanted to talk a little about that today.

Since I started this project, social media has really become the way “this type of work” gets exposed and known - we’ve come a long way from where I started to today’s “doing it for the ‘gram”.

Thinking a bit more locally, I was talking with Carmen the other day, and I made the statement that everything I see about photography in West Virginia seems to sort into two buckets:

  1. Highly saturated, full color images of pristine wilderness in West Virginia.

  2. Gritty black and whites of “working class” people and neighborhoods, or of industry (and industrial decline).

I’ve probably spent some time in these spaces as well, although I don’t do a lot of “people” shooting. Sometimes the subject matter motivates those choices for me - I always find textures and patterns more interesting in black and white - and man-made things tend to have textures and patterns. I’ve also worked to capture the “best thing” and present it as I “saw” it - which in West Virginia leads to a lot of greens and blues and colors.

All of that said, both of those approaches have started to leave me feeling flat. We see the two ends of the spectrum, but the much more common middle gets left out. The beauty that might exist in places that most folks don’t take photos of, or the damage in pristine places. The beauty in empty or beat down. The grit that often lives “just out of frame” in the postcard.

I hope folks come with me on this ride - but I felt I needed to challenge myself this year, and so far it’s energized me more than I’ve felt in my work in a long time.

Hope y’all have a good weekend.

Beautiful, In Its Way - West Virginia