Photographs from a project entitled "Kentucky Coal Country," in which photographer Gordon Smith concentrates on economic and social factors in Kentucky. The photographs document poverty, erosion of the land through strip mining, and other harsh realities in Kentucky.
Scope and Contents:
The seven photographs in this group are all from a project entitled "Kentucky Coal Country," in which Gordon Smith concentrates on economic and social factors in Kentucky. They powerfully and starkly document poverty, erosion of the land through strip mining, and other harsh realities in Kentucky. All negatives were made in 1994, but these prints were made by Smith in late 1998 and/or early 1999. All are silver gelatin, printed on 16" x 20" paper, and are unmounted. Included with the prints are copies of the artist's project description and a caption list with his comments for forty images in the series.
Smith's photographs depict the Appalachian region of Kentucky, whose residents remain among the poorest in the nation. "This region, whose underground fortunes are still being ruthlessly plundered, now faces a near lifeless economy patched together by low paying service jobs, food stamps and welfare cheques," he writes. "...[The] Appalachian Regional Commission has overseen the spending of huge quantities of taxpayer dollars in an effort to penetrate the economic, geographic and cultural isolation of this mountainous region... Two thirds of these funds have been absorbed by road construction efforts which appear to have been more beneficial to local contractors and the coal and lumber industries than the population at large. The lavish spending program has had little effect in transforming the area's coal-linked economic base... The state of Kentucky has been particularly hard hit."
Smith's photographs indicate his concerns about the devastation of both the land and the people in the Appalachian region of Kentucky. The photographs in this selection vividly show the effects of strip mining, as well as people living in poverty. "Machines have stolen forever the jobs that kept this land alive," he comments. "...As communities perish and families are split apart, one of America's oldest and least understood cultures is in danger of being wiped away..."
The collection is arranged into two series.
Series 1: Documents,
Series 2: Photographs,
Biographical / Historical:
Gordon R. Smith is an American photojournalist whose photographs are in the collections of the Library of Congress, the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris), the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Center for Creative Photography (Tucson, Arizona), the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, and many other American and European collections. He has been included in many group exhibitions, and he has had solo exhibitions in galleries in the United States, Canada, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. He has received grants from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (Visual Arts Fellowship, 1994) and Eastman Kodak Company (Materials Grant, 1990).
His work has been published in the Washington Post, New York Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Photographer's Forum, S F Camerawork, Photo Metro, The Photo Review, Camera Austria, and other newspapers and magazines. He is based in Pennsylvania.
Collection donated by Gordon R. Smith,1999, January 25.
Collection is open for research.
Photographer holds copyrights. Reproduction permission from artist; contact information upon request.
Coal mines and mining -- 1990-2000 -- Kentucky Search this