Along the Clinchfield
I began photographing the communities along the former Clinchfield Railroad during the summer of 2010. I traveled through the five states the railroad connects, and explored the areas surrounding the original rail line. The 277-mile route ran from Elkhorn City, Kentucky, through Southwest Virginia, Northeast Tennessee, Western North Carolina, and ended in Spartanburg, South Carolina. George L. Carter constructed the railroad in 1908 and built the line to link urbanized areas with impoverished mountain communities. From its inception it has been an economic link to the small towns and the larger cities along its route.
My goal with this project was to describe these places in a way that gives the viewer the essence of how these places now appear. I have chosen to photograph this project in black and white because I feel it accentuates the sometimes-harsh environment surrounding the railroad. The absence of color changes the way the pictures are perceived and emphasizes the repetitive geometric shapes that occur when the light falls upon the subject matter and gives the photograph a feeling of the harshness these places sometimes possess. While working on this project I developed an understanding of the connectedness the communities have to each other, as well as their lifeline, the railroad. With these photographs I have shown what remains of them, and how they exist in the present.
With this body of work I have photographed individuals who participate in American Civil War re-enactments, as well as the spectators that attend these events. My photographs illustrate the reenactors perception of the war and the importance it plays in their desire to unite the past with the present. The events, occurring on mock battlefields, rely heavily on nostalgia. I see them as a performance and spectacle that entices a connection from the spectators. I feel it is important to convey the participants from a contemporary vantage point that is relative to the present.
These pictures have allowed me to provide others with my perspective on these living histories, which show an amusing side to the characters the reenactors play. Many of whom see the re-enactments as a way of life, which allows them the freedom to present their own personal interpretation of history, while demonstrating the pride they have in being the descendants of those who lived and died during the Civil War.