Call and Response

Call and Response: Alan Pittman and Mary Ann Bragg

 Alan Pittman. March 22, 2014. A portrait of Jesus hangs near the bell-tower rope in one of the classrooms at Valley Grove Methodist Church, Charleston, Kanawha County, West Virginia.

Alan Pittman. March 22, 2014. A portrait of Jesus hangs near the bell-tower rope in one of the classrooms at Valley Grove Methodist Church, Charleston, Kanawha County, West Virginia.

As I page through all the photographs for West Virginia I stop at one with the sort of sunlight I know. The sheers are in a living room that I know, and the white wood chair is my white wood chair. I know that picture of Jesus in a robe. The benevolence of holding a lamb. He stands among sheep that crowd and follow him. I know the elements of this photograph, and I know the symmetry. I’m drawn to them. But it is the hanging cord that makes me shudder. It’s a rope for a church bell, soft and unfrayed with a trim tassel, but honestly it is awful in its off-centeredness and the way it ends in the top third of the photograph. The rope lacks a symmetrical twin. Its darkness interrupts the light from the windows. I think of it as malevolent. It immediately takes me to what must be in the back of my mind. A hanging. A hanging of some kind, either self-inflicted or as I write it just now a hanging inflicted by someone else. But the rope is quite slender. It could not cause that much damage to another person. Surely. A female, though. It could have hung a slender female. The tensions in this photograph are many. The benevolence matched with the suggestion of malevolence, and the symmetry matched with the sole dissymmetry of the rope. What I know to be true is matched with what is unknown. There is anxiety. I struggle with what I know compared to what I want to be.

Mary Ann Bragg. Provincetown, Massachusetts. 


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.