Call and Response

Call and Response: Elle Olivia Andersen and Arielle Parker-Trout

Elle Olivia Andersen . November 29th, 2014. Tallulah Gorge, Tallulah Falls, Rabun County, Georgia.

Elle Olivia Andersen. November 29th, 2014. Tallulah Gorge, Tallulah Falls, Rabun County, Georgia.

As a small child, I was confused when someone asked my mother if our lake was a natural one and further baffled at her answer. She said no, it was formed by a series of Georgia Power dams and hydro-plants that stepped their way through the mountains, creating lakes between them as they went. From Rabun, to Burton, to Seed, and finally to ours, Tallulah. 

Not natural. Man made. Bound by steel and concrete on either side. How strange, when we knew the lake as we knew our own skin, our hands, and the feeling of our feet on the ground. Our bodies flashed during the summer like white fish bellies in the sun. In fall we paddled our canoes along the shore, reaching for the muscadines that grew low and heavy above the water. In winter, we remembered the lake like a dream, waiting for the first spring day when we might find the courage to throw ourselves in the deep green; gasping wordlessly at the cold. 

When my mother says no, not a natural lake, I feel something shift—I must change the geography of my memories. I begin to picture these mountains before the water filled them in. A small river perhaps, a greater expanse of woods. A world before and a world after. Now, Tallulah has secrets. The forests leading down to the edge of the water are words on a page. They are a story that sinks in this emerald mystery—continuing down into the deep. 

Over the years I have learned more, and now the lake brings with it a history of habitats lost and made, displaced people, and created economies. I know all this, and yet the feeling of swimming through the sun-dappled water remains. A memory of floating, a cool, green place; a natural lake forever in my mind. 

Arielle Parker-Trout. Tallulah Falls, Georgia.


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: Amanda Greene and Amity Taylor

Amanda Greene . December 5, 2014. Elbert County, Georgia.

Amanda Greene. December 5, 2014. Elbert County, Georgia.

I keep trying to see my face in the bottles.

That’s why I don’t put up a fuss about going to the store

for Mama

(who doesn’t leave the house anymore).

That, and I like the way the chords mount in my head

as I run

rising up, up, up

as the rhythm of my feet pounding the path

gives shape to it all

          the way

          the cock’s comb and

          black-eyed Susans --

          blackberries

          blur by and

          my heart beats faster

          and my

          lungs            expand


and then

finally

the beat and colors mix together

until there’s only one pile of sound, one chord, rising in an

open-mouthed O

the way fish suck at the surface when I spit

from the bridge

like Daddy taught me

while Mama tried not to smile.

I send the chords

all the way up until Daddy can hear them.


I get this, my church, on Saturdays --

that’s when Mama needs the flour for the biscuits.

They grow up in mounds, too, like her belly did

right before Ada was born.


Saturday nights, after dinner, we use the leftover biscuits

to shine our patent leather shoes for church.

It’s the lard that makes them shine.

Mama says we have to look nice so that

people will know we’re getting along just fine.


Church is the one place mama will still go.

She figures it’s safe there, with the eyes of Jesus watching over us and all.



Mr. Haley’s Adam’s apple bobs up

and down

while he talks.


He shuffles to the back to get the flour.

There's bubble gum in buckets,

and rock candy, piled up in barrels

like fish in a market

and blue bottles in seed rows, perfectly spaced.

I always thought glass had to be clear, like honey jars,

but these bottles are deep and dark

like the places in the ocean where Miss Turner says the fish

go blind because the sun doesn’t reach that far down.


Mama says my eyes are blue like Daddy’s.  

Blue and brimming with trouble --

full to the top with something nothing good can come of.  

Full like the floured biscuits that give my shoes

Yesterday’s butter shine.


On Sundays,

Chords rise from Mrs. Haley’s careful organ fingers.

Mama sings.

I squint to see my face

In my Saturday-shined shoes.

Amity Taylor. Austin, Texas.


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: Roger May and Michael Ramsburg

Roger May . August 2, 2014. Preacher Roger Stevens prays for a woman at a tent revival in Baisden, Mingo County, West Virginia.

Roger May. August 2, 2014. Preacher Roger Stevens prays for a woman at a tent revival in Baisden, Mingo County, West Virginia.

And Jesus Wept

the preacher man says, and I believe — even though I’m a Jew, I know everyone cries, so I figure it plausible that the different parts of a godhead could too, and I keep listening, and he says: In seven days G-d made the world, and I’ve heard that one before, so I wave my hand to say yes, yes, and he says: Look around and you will see all of G-d’s greatness, and he points to the mountains, to the creek, and I think How Great Thou Art and someone sings, someone shouts Alleluia!

and I watch them weep.


Michael Ramsburg. West Virginia.



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.