Saltville, portrait of an American Tow. In 2018 my American friend John Arnold asked if I would be interested in photographing his uncle’s collection of artifacts in Saltville, Virginia. The collection included a Dinosaur egg over 1.5 million years old, arrowheads of the native Chisca-Yuzhi tribe, and remnants from the American civil war. Thus began my photographic project to records a rich trove of historical relics.
Traveling back and forth, soon my interest shifted to the people and landscape of Saltville. Drawn to the misty haunted surroundings and the people struggling to survive there, my project expanded from the dead to the living.
Saltville has had a history of environmental and economic disasters. The original inhabitants, Chisca-Yuzhi tribe occupied the area until European settlers came. Drawn to the salt deposits settlers eventually drove the native people out. In time, the Olin Salt mine made the area prosperous until in the 1970’s the mercury pollution of the Holston Norfolk river was exposed and Saltville’s plant was shut down.
Since that time economic blight has been the fate of Saltville. With conservatism, religion, poverty, economic draught, the opioid epidemic has been the only refuge of a people left without hope.