Merchandising the Mountaineer


This week we read multiple different articles.  The one that stuck out to me the most was “Merchandising the Mountaineer”.  It talked about how photographs and articles had perpetuated the negative views of Appalachia.  Muriel Sheppard wrote a book named “Cabins in the Laurel”, with photographs shot by Bayard Wootten.  Wootten did not depict Appalachia as how it really was in his photos. Sheppard had a preconception of Appalachia that it was a “folk” society of pioneers where people just “sang songs and practiced folk traditions”.  Sheppard wrote about Appalachia not really knowing what it was really like, then Wootten gave visuals that seemed to almost oppose the text.  All of the photos showed the poverty and “uncivilized” looking areas of Appalachia.  “The only building shown is the court house which dominates the photo and the corner of a general store.  Yet the image that dictates the character of the photo is not the telephone pole indicating modern communication or the sign in the window the the courthouse denoting the National reemployment Office, but the buckboard and team of horses parked at the side of the courthouse.”  This quote really shocked me because it showed how biased Wootten must have been.  He was continuing the stereotypes of Appalachia through pictures that were not intended to show otherwise.  It was also mentioned that the two towns Wootten shot photos in were not very large, and made to look even smaller.  He made the towns look like there was one road, not many people, and few things going on around the town.  He photographed an Appalachian school building that had only one school room with a caption saying “Appalachia takes education seriously”.  This almost seems to be mocking Appalachia, because the picture made it look as if Appalachia lacked education and did not place emphasis on the importance of school.  Gender roles was also a theme in the photos.  Women were photographed doing their domestic housework while men were shown doing the agricultural and more difficult work.  He tried to show Appalachia as a place that had not advanced in any way and was lacking technology, education, and culture.  None of this is true to Appalachia.  Sheppard went back to Appalachia, North Carolina specifically, to write the other side of the story, and show the area for how it actually was.  In my opinion, people like Wootten are the ones that continue to fuel the fire of the Appalachian stereotypes today.

McKnight, B. L. (2013, August). Whose Agenda Is It, Anyway? Documentary Burdens, Community Benefits. Retrieved September 20, 2016, from
Watkins, C. A. (n.d.). Merchandising the Mountaineer.

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