In 2008, President Barack Obama attempted to explain the perceived resentment from small towns in Pennsylvania. He said: “. . .it’s not surprising when they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them. . .” I have found that these small towns are bitter, not only because of their failing industries but because they are afraid of change. These communities do not want to hear that there is more to life than their tight-knit community and structured beliefs. As I photographed in the small towns of central Pennsylvania, I found this atmosphere that the president spoke of condensed by the depopulation brought on by hard times. This area includes the rural communities located between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and the northern part of the state. Since my mother’s family is from a small coal mining town in Western Pennsylvania, this subject has always interested me. My grandmother always talking about growing up in a poor, blue collar town and how hard it was to make a living, inspired me to document how these communities continue to struggle today.
In my travels, I discovered yards and homes filled with flags, banners and signs supporting faith and their country. I spoke to people who expressed fear and mistrust of the world outside of their community. I am interested in what has been ignored, and what has been left behind as well as the loss of hope and the struggle to survive. To those not familiar with small towns, the people who live there seem foreign and outcasts from society. The large gaps between cities, rural communities and coal mining towns not only intrigue me but challenge me to photograph and represent such conditions.