Stacy Kranitz: “CNN chose the most extreme photographs”

May 8, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Causes  //  21 Comments

Yesterday Saving Country Music took exception to a photo blog posted by CNN depicting “the everyday lives of Appalachian people” with photos of KKK members, burning crosses, snake preachers, and other subversive subjects taken by photographer Stacy Kranitz. After learning that Kranitz was distancing from CNN’s take on her photos, we reached out to her and she provided us with the statement below.

Apparently CNN chose some of the most extreme 16 photos of a 77 of photo essay that is part of a multi-year project still in the development stage, that was never meant to depict Appalachia’s “everyday people”, and instead ironically was meant to “demystify” stereotypes.

Please take time to check out the complete Old Regular Mountain Project.

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CNN chose the most extreme photographs and I did not know that they would do this until I woke up yesterday morning to see it published like everyone else.

I think people are rightfully angry. I am disgusted to see the words “the everyday lives of appalachian people” next to images of the KKK. That is a real insult to the region as is the reductive edit of my work and I understand why people are so offended by it.

Photo from Stacy Kranitz's ongoing Appalachia project

I do not see what I have photographed as a look at “the everyday lives of appalachian people” as CNN has claimed, Nor is that written anywhere in the CNN interview questions I answered or on my website.

I hope you take time to look at the 77 images and see that CNN chose only the most salacious ones to drive traffic to the website.

For this project I sought out the stereotypes and photographed them so that I could then offer a counter to them. That is what the project is about. It is meant to be a dialogue about stereotypes: the mythology they create, their value and their role in society and how they factor into the representation of place. It seemed the furthest from possible that CNN knowing my interest in both seeking out and demystifying stereotypes would make an edit of only the stereotypes. What they did is the opposite of what I am trying to do.

I made clear to CNN that the work was in the very early stages of a multi-year project and when pressed by CNN to come to an authoritative conclusion about the people of Appalachia I wrote.

“Unfortunately I am not yet at a place with this work where I have a handle on everything I am trying to say. I am just a traveler exploring new territory with the desire to be able to share my own experiences in an unfamiliar terrain …. I’m not entirely convinced that I will ever truly understand what I seek out but the work is about the process, the attempt to understand.”

I take full responsibility for being so naive as to trust that CNN was interested in my work and the process I go through to make photographs that question an outsiders ability to represent place.

I am truly sorry.



21 Comments to “Stacy Kranitz: “CNN chose the most extreme photographs””

  • I just want to say I don’t think Stacy Kranitz owes us an apology, she is owed a badge of honor, not just for undertaking this project initially, and being bold enough to portray the full color of Appalachia, including the unsavory elements and doing it with such passion, access, and creative prowess, but for also standing up to and speaking out against CNN for their unfair portrayal of her hard, dedicated work, and the unfair portrayal of the people of Appalachia, and The South and rural America by proxy.

    Taking on CNN as one looking to make a living through photographs takes guts, and I find that, along with her photos, quite inspiring.


    • I agree.


    • CNN clearly took her work (in progress) out of context. There is a lot of very interesting work on her website. For real though, how do you actually wind up at a Klan cross burning? As an outsider, that takes dedication. If her intentions were malicious, it could be downright dangerous. Props!


  • I want to point out the fact that the Klan is in fact a part of the South and is more common than you probably think. There are many among us that associate with members I can promise you that. I’ve seen and heard first hand.
    BUT… that would mean you could take a pic of a neo-nazi in Southern California and try to tell people that’s So Cal life. It is there but it does not define the place.
    It’s ridiculous that CNN did this. Let’s be honest, their job is to exploit and sensationalize things in order to draw people to their channel and website. They all do that.

    Good on you for calling them out.


  • What would the reaction be if CNN posted pictures of gangbangers in LA and said “this is typical Los Angeles”? Or passed out winos in NYC or homeless schizophrenics in Washington, DC. Oh, wait, that last one might be a pictorial on congress.



    • You’re telling me Appalachia is the only place the mainstream media has ever exploited a region by focusing on it’s lowest element? C’mon.


  • JD – TRUTH!

    CNN, FOX… they are all a bunch of sensationalist whores.

    Most of the media(96% ish or so) is owned by about 6 companies now… and those people that run ‘em all know each other.



    • Well said.


  • She has some amazing photos! Glad to hear she is calling out CNN for this bullshit.


  • I don’t comment around here much, but check the site daily and enjoy the reviews and commentary. So first of all, thanks for this site, Triggerman!
    I’ve lived in Kentucky my entire life, so there were certainly no surprises when I flipped through “The Old Regular Mountain Project,” except for one. The 30th picture in this collection shows a neon sign proclaiming “Christ is the Answer” on the side of a shed located next to a Baptist church in Owen County, Ky. Owen County is located about 25-30 miles north of Kentucky’s capitol, Frankfort. While it is a very rural county, Owen County is not considered Appalachia at all and is about three hours away from the closest “Appalachia” county.
    It is not uncommon at all to see or hear people in the region of Kentucky where I reside poking fun at those who, as we refer to it, live in “eastern, Kentucky.” When I saw that particular picture, I couldn’t help but wonder how the people of Owen County would feel to be a part of this collection of photos, being so far removed from Appalachia and of a completely different culture.
    For years Hollywood and the media have exploited Appalachia, but I can say as a lifelong citizen of Kentucky and having deep roots and family ties to Appalachia, you can not look at a collection of photos and have any clue what it’s like to be from “the mountains.”
    The poverty, the drugs (especially meth), the lack of education and industry leave many of eastern Kentucky’s residents hopeless. Nonetheless, hard luck and bad times never stop them. Many put their trust in God, they stand beside their families, their land and their heritage. Despite it all, they hold their heads up high day after day, no matter how many times Hollywood, the media, or even fellow Kentuckians look down upon them.
    This is the side of Appalachia that we hear about constantly. We never hear about the beauty of the land, how rich in history the area is, or the pride its residents take in the land or their great dedication to the area.
    I was going somewhere with this, but now I’m a bit infuriated. All I can say is that this project does not portray Appalachia in the least. As a Kentuckian with ties to the area, I’m offended to think that people all over the world will look at these photos and the continued degradation by the media and Hollywood and never want to experience the beauty of Appalachia and the sincerity of the people who reside there.


    • “All I can say is that this project does not portray Appalachia in the least.”

      And it was never meant to. That was never its intention. It’s only the CNN misrepresentation that made us think that was the purpose of this project, when in truth it was meant to represent:

      both typical and atypical lives captured through controlled and chance operations..

      Please see the rest of the project’s introduction I left in a comment below.

      And as for the picture taken outside of the Appalachian area of Kentucky, as long as this is disclosed, I can’t see how this somehow a misrepresentation. To a Kentuckian it may seem completely out-of-bounds, but to most people it still represents the general area, and the picture certainly fits the theme of the collection.

      Look, I’m not saying that this photo project is perfect. And I think it is really impossible to judge it yet since it is being presented as incomplete. But we all need to push the reset buttons in our brains that are making us think this is supposed to be a basic representation of a region like an encyclopedia, instead of a thought-out sociological study fleshed out in pictures.


  • I disagree fully that the CNN piece distorts the full package of pictures in the Mountain Project. The Mountain Project certainly depicted a particular portion of Appalachia though, and frankly, you’re lying to yourself if you think it’s displaying a terribly small fringe element. If you see the piece and think they are portraying a full cultural picture of a geographical area that large that lies within the US, you’re an idiot,…and I don’t sympathize with you being offended by it. Sensational journalism? Yes, maybe so. But they’re not fabricated pictures.


    • I haven’t seen anybody assert that these pictures were fabricated. Anybody. I also haven’t seen anybody say that the people depicted do not exist in some segment of Appalachian life. To what degree they exist I think depends on specific locations in a very broad area that spans numerous states and numerous subcultures that dwell within it, or on the perspective of the individual.

      And the only entity that ever attempted to say these pictures portrayed a full cultural picture was CNN. Not the artist, and certainly not I or anybody else who took exception with CNN’s photo blog. The whole purpose of the photos was to not create a complete representation, in fact it was the exact opposite of that if you read the introduction to a project that is also presented as incomplete.

      “Representing place is a complicated series of negotiations. How can the photographer demystify stereotypes, sum up experience, interpret memory and history.

      Regression to the mean is a term used to define a phenomenon in statistical analysis. If a variable is extreme on its first measurement, it will tend to be closer to the average on its second measurement.

      This concept outlines my process, which requires many visits in order to gain a photographic series of images that averages these extremes. I am initially drawn to stereotypes. Then I look to demystify these stereotypes only to find that they are rooted in some sort of reality. I do not exclude the stereotypical image from my representations, nor do I only seek it out. The resulting images are a regression to the mean and the mean is interwoven with both typical and atypical lives captured through controlled and chance operations.

      Nothing is all one thing or its opposite. There are moments in time that you see a degree of continuity between these opposing forces. Ultimately the term Regression to the Mean articulates the flaws of representation. Flaws which I openly embrace.”


  • To me, the unfinished status of the project doesn’t really reduce the status of the pictures. If she comes out with 3 more installments this batch would still represent 25 percent of what she is presenting. So if you want to demonize CNN for poor editing by not stipulating this doesn’t represent everday life for everybody, then go for it. I was able to figure that out for myself. The idea that CNN skewed the true concept of these photos is bullshit. And if she truly had such a determined path for the interpretation of these photos, she shouldn’t have shared them with CNN.


    • Fair enough. I understand what you’re saying. I think we’re all going to have different reactions to the piece based on our personal perspectives, and I think one of the goals of “Regular Mountain” is to help us realize this.

      “And if she truly had such a determined path for the interpretation of these photos, she shouldn’t have shared them with CNN.”

      It appears that Stacy Kranitz agrees with you, and takes full responsibility for this oversight and apologizes for it.

      “I take full responsibility for being so naive as to trust that CNN was interested in my work and the process I go through to make photographs that question an outsiders ability to represent place.

      I am truly sorry.


  • I would just like to tell Stacy that her position is understood, i admire her for what she has written above and i LOVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY…great work. Dont let any of this deter you from pursuing your art…you have “the eye”.
    follow your guts and instinct. you are creating a powerful collection of photographs.

    i have included a link to my name here that shows some of the work i have been shooting around my portion of PA…i focus mainly on the Plain culture here, but would not ever suggest that they represent what PA is…they are only a portion. I take most all my photos while driving…its been a while, but you have inspired me to get out the camera really soon…


  • those gay guys almost made me puke


    • Really? This comment gets reviewed and posted? Trig?


      • Comments are only reviewed before posting if it is the person’s first time commenting on the site. I try to review all comments, but unless the comment is attacking someone on a personal level, grossly offensive, or blatantly out-of-context, I don’t like tinkering with it. As stupid or mildly offensive as a comment might be, censorship is worse in my opinion, and comments are edited or deleted only as a last case resort.

        Here’s a list of the comment rules if anyone cares:


        • well that was the last thing I expected to be seeing and it caught me off guard


  • Those photographs are amazing, absolutely beautiful.


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