Ashes/Dust is an ongoing project about the lives of one family living in Muhlenberg County located in rural western Kentucky. For over a century the county was extremely prosperous, and during the 1970s it was the largest coal producer in the world. Since then there have been sharp declines in coal mining and industry in the area. The county has made attempts to revitalize itself, but it continues to struggle against a quickly-changing economy.
Through semi-annual visits to the area over the past nine years, I have been photographing the Groves family and the county. Closely tied to the land, the Groves includes coal miners, farmers, entrepreneurs, and former nurses. Having resided in the county for generations, they are the quintessential family–a microcosm for this part of the country–for within the family there is evidence of both the good and the sad that exists in the area. While some members of the family are deeply-religious and hardworking coal miners or ambitious entrepreneurs, others have found their lives taking more sullen turns.
These portraits, landscapes and still lives depict with respect and minimal sentimentality the truths that exist for the Groves.