A Visit with Judy Bonds: A Photo Essay
by David Flores
“Meeting someone like Judy is a motivating thing in life that makes you refocus your work, and I hoped, after spending the day with her, that my work would become more focused and I feel like it has,” says David Flores, a native of Louisville, Ky., and resident of New York City since 2005, who traveled on assignment as a photographer to profile activist Judy Bonds over Labor Day weekend of 2004 in her hometown of Whitesville, W.Va., and the surrounding region.
Following is a gallery of photos from that trip and Flores’ reflections on it. “That’s a thing you encounter in your 20s,” continues Flores, “you have some skills and a passion, but you haven’t resolved how to make those things work together to make a difference. In the car ride with Judy we were together so I could take some pictures as she drove, but it was not just about the pictures. What came out when I talked to her about our normal daily routines, was that she was doing things that were more important than I was and it changed my approach to my work and in many ways taught me how to tell the story better.”
“I have been adamantly against mountaintop removal (MTR) coal mining since I met Judy. She explained the costs beyond the monthly bill—the human costs and casualties to the region. I talk a lot more about it now with friends in Kentucky, specifically how really cheap and abundant power is down there (as compared with New York City). People like the cheap cost. If you want to do something about MTR, you have to accept you will have to pay more—this has to happen first. That’s the conversation I’m having. It’s a financial conversation.”
Click on any photo below to launch the gallery slideshow. This is one of a three part series of our tribute to the life and work of community activist and outspoken mountain mama, Judy Bonds, who passed away a year ago this week. Read this look at her life and work in “Mother Jones of Marfork Holler,” or Jason Howard’s “Appalachia’s Patron Saint,” a tribute to her life and legacy.