During his career as a journalist Phil Primack covered public policy, politics, and the economy for numerous news outlets, including The New York Times, the Boston Globe, Commonwealth, Boston, and Columbia Journalism Review. The Phil Primack Collection contains numerous photographs, most of them taken while Primack worked as a reporter for The Mountain Eagle in Whitesburg, KY. In addition to documenting coal mining, the life and work of coal miners, the Finley Mine disaster at Hurricane Creek (December 1970), and the Buffalo Creek disaster (February 1972), Primack’s photographs document the landscapes, people, history and culture of Appalachia.
This exhibit will explore how this collection constructs a more authentic image of Appalachia. The framing of the beauty in the region's nature honors the esteem its people hold for it. Likewise, through portraits of local life, Appalachians are shown as active citizens in building community and organizing against the threat of the unchecked coal industry. Not only is the sense of community shown in opposition to an outside threat, but also through everyday life and efforts towards local enrichment. Even in the portrayal of Appalachian towns and homes, the sense of harmony with nature characterizes the area as kind and welcoming. Primack's photographs highlight the agency and culture of Appalachia by providing a more positive and hopeful representation of the region, refuting other projects that embellish the very real problem of poverty in the region in a way the supports the long-standing stereotype of Appalachia as a stagnant, hopeless place.