These photographs are part of a work-in-progress titled ShatterZone, which is meant to accompany my two previous projects from Madison County – Sodom Laurel Album and The New Road.
Shatter zone is an 18th century geologic term that refers to an area of fissured or fractured rock. The phrase took on new meaning after World War II when political theorists began using it to denote borderlands. In this modern definition shatter zones become places of refuge from, and resistance to, capitalist economies, state rule, and social upheaval. Appalachia, and Madison County in particular, fit that definition.
Throughout its history, Madison has provided a haven for Native Americans, early Anglo settlers, Civil War resisters, Vietnam veterans, and refugees from the country’s cultural wars. The county’s present population includes long-term local families, young professionals, artists, retirees and back-to-the-landers. While the county is wired into the 21st century, many individuals understand it as a place where one can continue to resist modernity and be as “off the grid” as you want to be.
Madison County is not for everyone. It requires new skills, new tools, and new ways of interacting within your surroundings. It takes a rethinking of community and how one relates to it. And while that singular reason for being here – that idea of refuge – is almost universally felt throughout the county, there are also clear points of conflict. Zoning, land use, politics, religion, culture, language and many other beliefs and opinions offer potential for fracturing within the community, pitting newcomers against locals.
These photographs are not representative of the entirety of Madison County’s population or my work from the region. Most of the images are recent, while some are quite old, among my earliest from the county. These early images didn’t fit with other projects, but they are integral to this one, offering glimpses of a place that many continue to think of as unmapped, one of refuge and resistance.
These are the dynamics of ShatterZone.