Between 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population of Tennessee increased by 134 percent. Yes, Megan King’s hometown looks a little different these days. It also looks the same.
Born and raised in East Tennessee, Megan King has an unusual pairing of degrees that make her a perfect candidate for documenting the Latino population in Appalachia. With degrees in photography and in Spanish, she’s creating a well rounded body of work photographing those who’ve also found their home in Appalachia.
“My idea of Appalachia has always been this slightly romanticized version of rural living — farming, rolling hills, living close to family, and far from everything else. I’ve noticed recently that those are the situations I find myself photographing most. In fact, some of the businesses and families I’ve photographed have been in the region, if not the exact same place, for 20-plus years.”
In photographing businesses, people, churches, homes and other aspects of the community, King shows us the importance and the impact of emerging diversity in this historically conservative region of the United States.
“In general, I think people are surprised by the strong presence the Hispanic community has in Northeast Tennessee. We’re talking about people who live and work here, families that have established homes and farms, not exactly the common portrayal of Latinos simply as migrant workers. These are families who have become an integral part of the region.”
Vibrant colors, food, clothes and decorations create a visual juxtaposition to this region's typical aesthetic. It’s also important to see that the Hispanic and Appalachian cultures are blending.
“I found that these families live their lives the same as my family, and I think that is what people need to understand. My goal is to show this community with a sense of normalcy, without the surrounding of a provocative political rhetoric.”
King says her perception of and relationship with her Appalachian home, in general, has become more complicated.
“There are so many facets of Appalachia that are so well hidden by all the stereotypes and assumptions of the area. Maybe someone can gain the ability to look at their surroundings with appreciation for their neighbors, without being overwhelmed with all the 'issues' that seem to surround so many conversations about people who are so often seen as different.”
Through this work, King hopes to impart a greater sense of understanding and tolerance. To that we say, "Amen," and wholeheartedly wish her much success.
Delantales, Johnson City, Tenn.
Austin, Greeneville, Tenn.
Over on Instagram, we’ll be sharing images that reflect the changes in our own hometowns. We hope you’ll join the conversation and add yours. Use the hashtag, #HometownsChange
Preparing Lunch, Johnson City, Tenn.
Hot-n-Ready Tamales, Johnson City, Tenn.
Catrina, Erwin, Tenn.
Anai, Erwin, Tenn.
De Pesca, Greeneville, Tenn.
Sr. Porras, Unicoi, Tenn.
Jose and a friend, Johnson City, Tenn.
Sr. Pérez, Johnson City, Tenn.
Jose grilling, Johnson City, Tenn.
Casa, Erwin, Tenn.
Frank & Eddie, Greeneville, Tenn.
Los Primos, Morristown, Tenn.
Johnson City, Tenn.
Oro, Greeneville, Tenn.
Es Miller Time, Johnson City, Tenn.
Comedor, Erwin, Tenn.
Cortando, Johnson City, Tenn.