Dust to Dust is the second part of a body of work that began eight years ago when I visited my partner’s family for the first time in western Kentucky. Through photography, I have become closer to his family and their stories while also being fortunate to experience and document what their lives are like in a part of the country that often gets ignored or dismissed as part of “flyover country.”
The Groves have lived in Muhlenberg County for generations; they are a microcosm for the county. Most are hardworking coal miners, farmers, nurses, and entrepreneurs looking to better their lives. Sadly, some have lost parents to addiction and others have passed due to overdoses. Like many rural towns in the Bible Belt, industry continues to leave the area. While well-paying jobs in the coal industry disappear, miners must travel about an hour to find work. When Trump announced rollbacks to legislation restricting coal emissions, many in the community have grown excited for a return to the prosperous past that has for years been slipping away. These images convey the dichotomy between the current realities as the county works to rebuild and redefine itself.
All images and text © Michael Young
By Michael Young