Appalachia has a history of witchcraft. Deep in the hollows of places like eastern Kentucky, locals once practiced a range of ceremonies and rituals whose roots are hard to uncover and even harder to understand. Greg Banks wants us to understand them. His journey is personal. His family’s history includes witchcraft and dark creatures that roam the woods, and Banks’s photography is an attempt to bring both to light.
Banks currently teaches at Appalachian State in Boone, North Carolina, but his exploration of his family’s connection to the region’s little known mystical, or even demonic, activity has come to mark a significant turning point in his career as a photographer. Not particularly religious himself, he has nonetheless sought to both understand and respect his family’s religious past. He has spent countless hours researching family documents, combing through archives of Appalachian rituals and histories, and interviewing friends, family, and others connected to the vestiges of occult practice in eastern Kentucky. All have led to his current work.
Banks’s photographic process is, itself, a strange and seductive alchemy. Blending digital and traditional processes and printing techniques, he creates images that transform family and found photos into brooding ruminations on the meaning of place, spirituality, and regional history. The body of work is both startling and captivating, and its imagery exorcises family ghosts. The photographs evoke a supernatural past, but more importantly, they darken the present with lingering, cross-generational reminders of lives lived in the shadows. The images, dark visions that won’t be ignored or buried, demand to be heard, but Banks, in hearing them, has discovered that once they have been resurrected, they will, as they always have, linger in dark corners of our homes. They crowd our memories. They list in shadows. They haunt our lives.