Between the years 2000 and 2010, the Hispanic population of Tennessee increased by 134%, making it the third highest growth rate of this cultural group in the country. In 2011, while studying both Spanish and Photography, I began photographing Hispanic individuals who migrated to the Appalachian Mountains of East Tennessee.
This representation of a growing Latino culture in the hills of East Tennessee hints at the changing social landscape of the area, the symbiotic relationship of the Latino and Appalachian cultures, but also, how both cultures have acclimated. In a visual juxtaposition to Appalachian heritage, Hispanic culture is represented by vibrant colors, a variety of foods, and often traditional decorations. These aspects are seen in photographs of colorful businesses, churches with bilingual signs, artwork in homes, and other aspects of the community as individuals claim and negotiate their sense of place. Through the images, viewers are introduced to the importance of emerging diversity in this historically conservative region of the United States; however, because of the forced fusion of these two cultures, we see similarities between the cultures that allow them to blend indiscernibly at times, creating an illusion of acceptance. Photographing police officers, business owners, my neighbors, and friends challenges the stereotypes fueled by discriminatory political rhetoric that many Appalachians maintain.
Megan G. King is a photographer from Bristol, Tennessee currently based in Syracuse, New York where she is pursuing an MFA in Art Photography at Syracuse University. Much of her work is rooted in exploring social landscapes, subcultures, and relationships with a focus on representing marginalized groups. King received a Bachelor's degree in Spanish and a BFA in Studio Art from East Tennessee State University in 2013. She is a photo editor for Looking At Appalachia, her work has been exhibited all throughout the Eastern United States, and work from her series Hispanic Appalachia, which focuses on the emerging Latino community of East Tennessee, has been featured in several publications including Oxford American's EYES ON THE SOUTH, NPR's CodeSwitch, and Politico Magazine. You can see more of her work here.