An Explanation of Sympathetic Magic

by Greg Banks

God, witches, devils, mythical creatures, speaking in tongues, snake, and fire handling, and raising the dead all exist in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. For this body of work, I am appropriating family photographs, as well as vernacular images, to tell supernatural stories about my family history and the region that I come from. My work weaves together a personal narrative with the folkloric history of that area. Photoshop and the unpredictability of smartphone applications are used in a similar way to how a folktale unfolds. Each app is manipulating the story as a person might exaggerate a tale when they pass it along. By assembling family photographs and appropriating historical images, I am constructing stories with contemporary tools for manipulation and passing them along as visual folklore.

01

Sherman Lawson’s Resurrection Miracle

After asking the mother of Norma Blanton if he could pray for her, Sherman Lawson brought the young girl, who had been deceased for twenty-four hours, back from the dead.

02

Witchcraft: Allegations and Misfortune

03

A Moth in A Mine

04

Fable of Devil John Wright

Devil John Wright, worked with land speculator John C.C. Mayo and was brutal to farmers as they acquired the farmer’s land and mineral rights for mining in Eastern KY.

05

Paul’s Folktale

06

The Devils Spy

07

And It Began with an Apple

My grandmother Eleanor’s life changed dramatically after my grandfather HK passed away in 1977. She tore down the barn and stopped farming. My mother has said her life was better after my grandfather died, which I always found curious. But she was no longer up at 6 a.m. milking cows while he was in the coal-mines.

08

Concerning the Farmer’s Hymn

09

A Memory of Living in the Holiness Church with an Anointment Fire and My Father

10

And these signs shall follow to George Went Hesley

Snake handling began with George Went Hensley in Appalachia in about 1910. He was bitten over 400 times before he took his final bite on July 25, 1955.

11

The Precautionary Tale of Goatman

12

The Death of Linda

13

Great Uncle Ham’s Final Baptism by the Frogs

Greg Banks is a nationally shown photo-based artist and instructor, currently teaching at Appalachian State University. He received his MFA in photography at East Carolina in May 2017.  He received a B.A. in photography and a B.A. in fine art from Virginia Intermont College in 1998. In 2017, he was one of only seven artists chosen for the Light Factory’s Annuale 9. Greg’s work was among the top 5 most popular, on the online magazine “Don’t Take Pictures” in 2017.  Greg combines everything from iPhone images to historic 19th-century processes, gelatin silver printing, painting and digital printing. His current creative practice investigates family, folklore, memories, Appalachia, as well as history and religion.

 

From the Editor

I met Greg and reviewed this portfolio last fall while attending Click! Photo Festival in North Carolina. I was immediately taken with the story-telling aspect of this project and how he addressed the images based on the subject of each folklore. His exploration of his family history and local cultural relevance to the Appalachians makes the imagery quite charged. I look forward to seeing how Banks moves forward with these ideas in future work. Oh, and I should mention, he’s just an all-around pleasant person to hang out with. Cheers, Greg.

–Blue Mitchell

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