Where I'm From

tug My friend Cindy Shepherd from Oneida, Kentucky posted a poem on Facebook a few days ago, which was an exercise she planned to do with a group of elementary school children. After reading it, I was moved and inspired to write my own version of 'Where I'm From.'

I’m from sitting quietly beneath a great birch tree in the hills, my heart beating in my chest as I watch my granddad nap, shotgun across his lap.

I’m from looking for crawdads in the creek, pant legs rolled up, and cold mud squishing between my toes.

I’m from where the Tug divides West Virginia and Kentucky and where you can’t tell the difference between the two.

I’m from soup beans and cornbread, and my mawmaw asking me to pour her “about this much” coffee.

I’m from church on Sunday, pews full, arms uplifted, and Jesus is coming soon.

I’m from where coal is king and the people are not, but they make their living and don’t complain.

I’m from where the Hatfields and McCoys fought and loved and died.

I’m from where the mountains meet the sky, wild and wonderful, and there’s no place more beautiful.

I’m from wanting to leave and needing to get back.


I also had the pleasure of speaking to my good friend Joy's Introduction to Documentary Studies class at the Center for Documentary Studies. I shared some images from Testify and talked about the process of making the work. A few years ago, I was a student in Joy's class, working on a project and trying to figure out where I was going with it. It was in this class, that I began to rethink my project, step away from it for a bit, and develop it into something altogether different, more personal and nuanced. If you're even remotely interested in documentary work, I can't recommend Joy's class enough. I had a great time and met some great folks. Thanks for having me!


1. The Tug River from the West Virginia side near the Chattaroy Church of God, looking across into Kentucky, 1 March 2013. 2. Joy Salyers' Introduction to Documentary Studies class, 14 March 2013, shot on Fuji Instax film.