Kelsey Dillow is a co-collaborator at Whistlepig Farms, a collective of makers growing food and making art in the hollers outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. She runs a photography darkroom there where she practices handmade photographic processes, specifically wet plate collodion, AKA Tintypes. She also runs a mobile tintype photobooth available for events of all kinds.
In her personal work, Dillow's studio practice explores connecting and dividing lines between religion, folklore, mythmaking and Appalachian identity. Her work has been exhibited throughout the Appalachian region.
Kelsey is from Huntington, West Virginia. She received her Bachelors of Fine Art in Photography & Integrated Media from Ohio University in 2016, as well as minors in Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies and Museum Studies.
As a child I experienced the shouting, singing and faith strewn across the pews of the southern baptist church my mother grew up in. A sick man kneels at the altar; the elders of the church surround him and place their hands on his body. Like a collective heartbeat, they chant for God to heal him.
In a town across the river, a woman in the congregation has the sight. Members of her church, community and strangers seek her advice while she chain smokes in her kitchen. She predicted the deaths of several folks in town, or so it is said. She credits her gift to God, practically spitting at the whispers of witchcraft.
Storytelling, myth-making, folk magic and connection to the land are lights that guide my art practice and represent a large part of the Appalachian identity for me. By trying to understand the complicated histories of this region, I seek to better understand my own experience, and that of the diverse communities found in these mountains.
Utilizing photographic processes as a means of representing Appalachian identity is an important part of my practice. In a region where visual portrayals of stereotypes have permeated throughout history and shaped the lives of its people, it seems to me that there is power in creating our own representations.