SB Jon (Crimson SBs) is a University Photographer for Harvard Public Affairs and Communications in Cambridge, MA. He was introduced to the Silverback Digest by his brother Jerry (Quaker SBs). SB SM
I made two trips to Coal Country, in 1978 and 1979. For the first one I was asked by fellow photographer and Roz Gerstein to accompany her to take photos for her upcoming WV edition of the Women’s Yellow Pages, a source book for women. The idea was to show women in non-stereotypical roles, and as strong role models. Roz and I spent some time together, but also separated and spent time apart in different areas. Susan Meiselas, a Magnum photographer, also contributed photos. Then, a year later I went back with another photographer friend, not on any assignment, but simply because I was fascinated with the area. The trip made for some strong photos and some close calls, but I lived to tell the tale!
Tent revival meeting, Briarbranch, KY, 1978. Traveling evangelists would set up a tent in a small town and hold services for a few days, then pick up stakes and move on. People swayed when moved by the spirit, and spoke in tongues. A laying on of hands to cure various ailments and calling on the Lord for strength was also common. Jon Chase photo
Two brothers, two sides: one union, the other, non-union, standing but not working during a lengthy coal strike in Norton, Virginia, 1978. Because one brother was a supervisor, he was by definition not a union member. It was not rare to see this situation in a coal community where almost everyone worked in the mines, and could produce deep tensions within a family during a prolonged strike. Jon Chase photo
A woman handles a rattlesnake at a church service in Micco, West Virginia in 1979. The minister standing behind her with arms outstretched lost his 15-year-old son to a rattlesnake bite a month earlier. Snake handling is based on a verse from Acts 28:3-6 in the Bible saying, “They will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Snake handling has declined considerably since the time I took this photo, with very few practicing churches remaining. Micco is named for the Main Island Creek Coal Company. Jon Chase photo