Lichtenstein, A (2010)
West Virginia is the fourth most heavily mined state in America (American Coal Foundation. 2011). Half of all people who were born there now live outside the state and coal mining is the principal reason. The photograph I have chosen was taken in July 2010 near Blair Mountain, an area of historical importance. This is because on August 25th to September 2nd 1921, the largest class war in American history occurred, called “The battle of Blair Mountain” (Roselle, M. 2011). Following decades of oppression and exploitation by coal companies, 10,000 to 15,000 miners marched on an army of police and strike breakers in a bid to unionise the coal fields.
The main subject of the photograph is Jimmy Weekly, the last remaining resident of Pigeon Holler. This is an area close to Blair Mountain where his family have lived and mined since 1734.
Jimmy is now having his own battle with the coal companies. He refuses to sell to strip mining companies in a bid to save his home. The power of the corporations and forced evictions mirror what was happening in the 1920’s and 30’s all over america, with similar tactics used against the sharecroppers during there re settlement.
The composition draws your eyes to the deer heads and general decoration of the room. The contents of the wall and the way they are displayed, point towards someone who is clearly house proud, much like Walker Evans (1936) Washroom and dining area photograph. This is all very important in explaining to the viewer what is at stake, when viewed within the context of Jimmy’s story. The wall items also evoke an image of a well built, strong, all American male hunter. However, as you follow the image down, you are confronted with a complete contrast, a thin weak looking man. The white vest, skinny arms, skeletal fingers and hand on forehead convey that this man is worn out. This photograph can draw direct comparisons to Dorothea Lange’s daughter of migrant coal miner (1936), due to...
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