Call and Response

Call and Response: Greg Banks and Misty Skaggs

  Greg Banks . August 15, 2015. 46 Years, printed in platinum and palladium. The photographer's mother at her childhood home. Harlan, Harlan County, Kentucky.

Greg Banks. August 15, 2015. 46 Years, printed in platinum and palladium. The photographer's mother at her childhood home. Harlan, Harlan County, Kentucky.

Mamaw shakes her head 
and says things change. 
but she stands just the same way 
she always did. 
firm against the years blowing past
with that one leg cocked 
and a bare foot pointing the way
out of frame, out of Harlan. 
she looks past the camera 
and Mamaw says 

them steps seem steeper,
she stands there, the way she always did
surveying what's left of the mountains 
and staring down decades. 
the only difference is
her fists have migrated 
up to her hips 
and clenched in defiance of time. 


Misty Skaggs. Stark, Kentucky.


Call and Response is a photo-literary exploration devoted to the relationship between photographs and words. Using photographs from the Looking at Appalachia project, writers are encouraged to respond narratively to a single image in 1,000 words or less. We hope to use this platform to expand our community and encourage collaboration between photographers and writers. Learn more about how to submit here.

Call and Response: Megan King and Wendy Dinwiddie

  Megan King . August 20, 2014. Kingsport, Sullivan County, Tennessee.

Megan King. August 20, 2014. Kingsport, Sullivan County, Tennessee.

The Golden Calf Funeral Home


The man at the Golden Calf Funeral Home says it’s haunted by one of Christopher Columbus’s original cows. He says her name is Isabella and that you can hear her mooing out in the vestibule among the antique couches and plastic magnolias. He’s got a painting of her hanging up above the podium where you sign the guest book. 

The man at the Golden Calf Funeral Home’s name is Ralph, and we mostly agree that he is full of shit. He found the cow skull when they expanded the hearse garage, and he took it over to the community college to have it tested. It was a big to-do. There were reporters from the state capital and sweater-wearing bald men from NPR and the Smithsonian even sent a woman down in a Buick but she said the Days Inn had bedbugs and left. The town historical society paid to have one of those metal markers put on the side of the hearse garage, but it was so shady back there and the print so small that only people from out of town ever bothered to read it.

Now we aren’t saying that the community college is also full of shit. They do charge $475 for a class on the harmonica, but we’re not saying they’re full of shit. Maybe Isabella rode over with Columbus in 1492, swam to the mainland as fast as her hooves would allow, and walked a thousand miles northwest to the Great Smoky Mountains. Maybe she dodged snakes and swamp and hungry Italians and three kinds of bear, just to die at the foot of Jaybird Hill. Maybe she waited there for 500 years for Ralph’s grandson to find her with a backhoe. 

Maybe not.

Ralph’s grandson says if your loved one has a message to you from beyond the grave, you can see their face drawn out in Isabella’s painted ribs. Jimmy Cantrell says this is cow shit. He’s lost four cousins, a brother, both parents, and three grandmothers, all embalmed at the Golden Calf, and he’s never seen any faces. Wouldn’t at least one out of all that family have something to say? 

Out of respect, those of us who’ve seen faces don’t mention it.

Wendy Dinwiddie. Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


Call and Response is a photo-literary exploration devoted to the relationship between photographs and words. Using photographs from the Looking at Appalachia project, writers are encouraged to respond narratively to a single image in 1,000 words or less. We hope to use this platform to expand our community and encourage collaboration between photographers and writers. Learn more about how to submit here.

Call and Response: Josh Birnbaum and Kari Gunter-Seymour

  Josh Birnbaum . July 9, 2016. Amesville, Athens County, Ohio.

Josh Birnbaum. July 9, 2016. Amesville, Athens County, Ohio.

WEDDING DRESS                                                               

It looked like a defeated botanical,
stuffed butt first in an old hat box,
petals of crinoline, silk and netting 
leafing out. A waning magnolia, 
shaped of faux pas, trapped between 
memory and the moment.

She’d carefully packed it in tissue 
thirty years ago, schlepped it town to town,
her gut the depository of a thousand 
swallowed tacks. Now a freewoman, 
she wanted to drown it, torture 
each perfectly petite pearl button. 

The day she accidentally unearthed it, 
bracelet snagging a needle-laced sleeve, 
her forceful yank, its silken skirts 
a dance of air, spring-winged, 
and she that girl, stunningly 
unacquainted with loss.

Kari Gunter-Seymour. Athens, Ohio.


Call and Response is a photo-literary exploration devoted to the relationship between photographs and words. Using photographs from the Looking at Appalachia project, writers are encouraged to respond narratively to a single image in 1,000 words or less. We hope to use this platform to expand our community and encourage collaboration between photographers and writers. Learn more about how to submit here.