I met Barbara while photographing on Broadstreet in downtown Kingsport, Tennessee last summer. She was walking home from work and had diverted her usual route across the street to ask me what I was up to. "What you up to?" is a question I've heard a lot in Kingsport, as I've been photographing in and around the city since I got my first camera as a junior in high school. The second question I hear is, "Do you want to take my picture?"
Through my long term projects of photographing the region, I've come to believe that most people want to be seen, want to be heard, and mostly want to be understood. They want to show off their cars, their dogs, their new tattoos. I didn't ask Barbara to pose, I just asked her to stand comfortably. She put down her lipstick-marked styrofoam cup, crossed her arms and gave an assured look towards the sun.
In a media environment of increasing white noise and confirmation bias, it pays to take long looks at the narratives - and the pictures - that mold our perceptions of a region. It pays to slow down and try to understand a people and a place, even if takes a lifetime and a lot of film. It pays to answer the question, "Do you want to take my picture?" with an emphatic "Yes".
- Matt Brown | @hausofbaba
Beyond the Picture explores the behind-the-scenes moments of photographs in the Looking at Appalachia collection as told by the photographers who made them.