Hazard, Kentucky, 1968

The first paid professional photography I undertook was for the Rural Electric Cooperative, an agency of the federal government. They wanted photographs that documented the need for "the war on poverty." It was a several-day assignment in Appalachia. By this time I had traveled a good deal in America and felt I had seen poverty. But I was unprepared for the depth and immediacy of poverty in the Appalachian coal fields.

A man drove me around in his car. I wasn't afraid of what I saw, but I was afraid to photograph what I saw. In front of this house I asked the driver to stop the car and lean forward. I photographed across the car, then we drove on quickly.

When I printed the picture I cropped out the car door. I was ashamed that it showed my fear. Now I think it's the most interesting part of the photograph.


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