Life

The above photo depicts nine people sitting together on the front porch of the C.B. Caudill Store in Letcher County, Kentucky. There is a couple on the left, sitting together on a swinging chair. They are listening to the group to the right, two men playing banjo and guitar respectively. Below them are people sitting on the steps up to the store talking affably. Above them is another man looking to his left, suggesting there is even more going on around the store outside the frame. Altogether, this storefront scene elicits a strong sense of recreation and community. This slice-of-life photography stands in great contrast to other examples of Appalachian porch scenes, exemplified by Shelby Lee Adams, who uses these scenes to illustrate the impoverished family life of Appalachia. Everyone in this scene is in action, interacting with their surroundings and being expressive. Although this Primack picture does not depict a family, the sense of community and care for one another is much stronger than similar scenes from Adams, which portray the families as disgruntled, passive, and helpless. All of this notably takes place in the C.B. Caudill Store, which also serves as a popular center of community in Letcher County. This is another significant contrast, showing that Appalachians intentionally go out and build community, rather than staying in their homes with their family, as Adams’ pictures suggest.

Throughout all the portraits and depictions of Appalachian people in the Primack photography collection, they are never shown as something to pity. In the close-ups, faces are captured showing genuine emotions, as if they were engaged in conversation with the photographer. When shot from afar, people are often shot with at least one other person, and the subjects take up most of the frame to avoid looking lonely and helpless. The effect created is one where the agency of Appalachians is emphasized, actively fighting against historically popular mainstream perceptions.