Wal-Mart Negatives

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There’s absolutely no limit to what plain, ordinary, working people can accomplish if they are given the opportunity and and the encouragement and the incentive to do their best.

-Sam Walton, Wal-Mart Founder

Plain Ordinary Working People is a photographic project that reveals the connections between a small town, lost negatives, and Wal-Mart. In 2012 I found a sleeve of negatives on the floor of a log cabin home in Williamsburg, Kentucky. Upon scanning the negatives, I discovered they were portraits of Wal-Mart employees. Initially, the deteriorated images sparked questions about their origin, the identity of the subjects, and how they arrived at the cabin. Over the course of four years searching newspaper archives, making phone calls, and writing letters, I located four of the employees--Janice, Tina, Chet, and Audrey--who helped answer some of my initial questions, 30 years after the original portraits were made. After interviewing them and making new portraits, the personal stories they shared contrasted with the sterile images of them as employees. People, places and companies in small towns have dynamic and complicated relationships which both benefit and harm one another. Using the negatives as a source, the project sheds light on the time, place, and sociological environment the negatives captured during that 1986 summer in rural Kentucky.