Bidden or not bidden, Christmas arrives in these coves of Appalachia in 1965 carried in by the Parson of the Hills and Santa Claus on Christmas Day. I traveled the winding roads with them to record something that I felt could reveal Appalachia in a book that I wanted to create. I wanted to abolish poverty. I was young and naïve, but I tried anyway.
People who lived in secreted mountain cabins kept to themselves and talked with few outsiders. The Parson introduced me to many that I otherwise could never have reached or convinced to trust me enough to talk with me, let alone take their pictures.
Children of poverty have done no wrong. It was not their choice to be born into a situation that seemed desperate and hopeless. But hope seems to have already aged and to have been badly injured in this little boy. Although he holds a sack from “Santa” that contains toys and fruit, he either doesn’t believe it, doesn’t feel that he will be allowed to keep and enjoy it, or his sense of happiness is so hungry that it has shriveled. I could only hope my picture would bring help to these stranded humans and, thus, renew hope that life can be good.
When I feel self pity coming on, I look at this picture and it grounds me. It causes a craving to give something to someone. When I took his picture that day and walked away, I wished for him that he someday could also walk away and find joy in the world and the elated feeling of having bettered his life.
Young Face of Poverty
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