Once known for its bounty of coal, salt, clay and timber, Southeastern Ohio was stripped of its resources by the mining corporations that thrived from the 1820s to the 1960s. When they had mined all that they could, the corporations left and the residents remained.
For the past three years I have been documenting the people of this region. The foothills of Appalachia have been my home for the past five years. I met my wife here and our daughter was born here. Now, the same lack of opportunity that has plagued the residents of Southeastern Ohio for decades has forced us to move.
Rampant unemployment, poor housing conditions, drug abuse and sub-standard schools have left many families here in crisis. In 2006, Athens County, one of the poorest counties in the state, had a poverty rate of 27.4 percent and a per capita income of just $14,171. With the economic downturn of the United States these numbers have only gotten worse.
“That the poor are invisible is one of the most important things about them. They are not simply neglected and forgotten as in the old rhetoric of reform; what is much worse, they are not seen.” - Michael Harrington
My purpose in creating these images is to show the effect of corporate greed in a forgotten region of the United States. Now is the time to look inward and investigate the issues that lurk below the surface within our country. It’s the first step to resolving them.
Poverty is more than the lack of monies; it is the deprivation of opportunity and has a lasting emotional resonance for the individuals who live within its grasp. Below, the voices of some residents of Southeastern Ohio can articulate the personal impact better than I.
Excerpts from anonymous surveys conducted by Athens County Job & Family Services
*Note: any typographical errors are due to direct transcription from the survey.
“I feel like no one cares. It’s not that we don’t want to work we are just going through hard times. Please help.”
“…It’s hard to feed a family of 7 when you don’t really have enough to get everyone’s belly full. “
“I feel kind of a let-down and basically worthless to my son. If I had a car and extra money to feed him our hopes would begin to open up doors.”
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