Monday, May 14, 2012

Even More on Stacy Kranitz and the Way We See Appalachia

Roger May continues the conversation this week about CNN's edit of Stacy Kranitz's photographs of Southern Appalachia on his blog  Walk Your Camera, here.

Roger is doing well on his own, also, featured in Issue 38 of Fraction, go here and scroll down.

Roger reports that the estimable John Edwin Mason has been involved in the conversation, making the comment that “Contempt for the white working class is the last acceptable prejudice for (many, not all) middle-class liberals.”

He's got a point. Even more important, he's got a blog we need to pay much more attention to.

UPDATE: has picked up the discussion, here.


  1. John, I feel very ill at ease and ambiguous over the CNN/Stacy Kranitz controversy. It seems to me that, if a photographer submits a small amount of images [33 in this case] to a news organization for publication, and those images include a bunch of stereotypical, hot button photos, the photographer should not be surprised if those photos are used more readily then the more 'mundane' ones. If in addition, the photographer does not retain/demand control of the final edit, the fault lies with the photographer.

    I think a lesson for those of us who teach photography is to make sure our students get as much of a dose of the history of photography as possible, and are educated about the 'big, bad world' out there, even if we only teach 'art' photography or Photo 101.

  2. Yes, while the conversation about cultural stereotypes is an important conversation to have, this is also a reminder of the good old advice not to say anything (in this case not to submit any image) you do not want on the front page of tomorrow's newspaper (or website, or blog).

  3. Stacy Kranitz deserves some credit for the sincerity and candor that she has displayed in these numerous interviews. She has offered transparency on this issue while CNN continues to say nothing. You only know what she sent because she cared enough to offer that information to Roger May. Ms. Kranitz has clearly and consistently stated (on her website, in her initial CNN interview, and during subsequent interviews) that these "hot button" images are meant to offer us an opportunity to connect with what she described as a series of photographs that "seeks out and demystifies" stereotypes. It was reasonable for her to expect that CNN would choose some of the "hot button" images that represent stereotypes, but it was also more than reasonable to expect that at least half of the images would offer a counterpoint to them. She does not take issue with the fact that they chose "hot button" images. But she has stated that she is "disgusted to see the words ”the everyday lives of Appalachian people’ next to images of the KKK." The phrase “everyday lives” was not in her interview with CNN or in the introduction to the greater project on her website.

    One of many problems seems to be that both CNN and some critics of her work have not taken the time to understand that she was using "hot button" images to look at the history of photographic representation in the area.

    Let’s not criticize her for trusting that CNN was interested in a project whose intentions are clearly described on her website. She has apologized for not taking control of the edit. She is taking responsibility for having played any role in this debacle. I agree that this is a great example to use in classes that deal with professional practices, but it is also a great example to use in any documentary class. The work shows a photographer who cares deeply about the history of photography and its future. This is by no means a perfect series of images. But she Stacy Kranitz is not just another photographer blindly photographing stereotypes. This is self-reflexive, self-critical work that is worthy of being given a chance to grow.