Crossing The Divide

Crossing The Divide is a 10 week multimedia reporting fellowship supported by The GroundTruth Project and WGBH. We are a team of five reporters, from five states, with five different focuses making our way from Massachusetts to California, reporting on the issues that divide and unite the U.S.  @xthedivide


Chapter 1: Massachusetts - Divides in Education 

The state of Massachusetts has long been a ranked first for public education in the United States. State test scores have continued to rise, charter schools are becoming more widely accepted, and of course, there's Harvard.

However, that's only a reality for some. For the 1,200 students at the High School of Commerce in Springfield, Mass., a school with the reputation of falling behind in the achievement gap, the picture is more complex than who is succeeding and who is not. Commerce has long been presented as a "bad school." It's thought to be place where students get into fights and just yawn off their studies. However, the dialogue often overlooks that students there face unparalleled socioeconomic disadvantages, a lack of resources and racial barriers. As the income inequality divide in the United States widens, so does the educational achievement divide. As students face trauma, bullying, a collapse of social support, their studies inevitably suffer.

This photo essay, paired with the Crossing The Divide team's reporting, aims to showcase the complexity of the students' lives and the moments that shape them.

Chapter 2: Kentucky - Life after Coal 

I’ve always had a complex relationship with Kentucky. It’s home but I’m not a native. I don’t romanticize it but I defend its reputation. I have a flat midwestern accent but identify as a Southerner. I’ve experienced wealth in the landscape but have met few that were rich.

The more I grew in my craft, the more enraged I became about how Appalachia was portrayed. I no longer viewed the photos of dirty children and toothless seniors as an interpretation of the region. I felt like it was just another trophy for someone to put in their portfolio. I saw photography that exoticized the people but lacked substance.

With this section of our reporting I turned my camera elsewhere, not to ignore the problems but to present complexities that many Kentuckians identify with. I wanted to present the most honest representation of reality that I could, as someone who came of age in the region.

This photo essay is about relationships. It’s about relationships to the earth and how easily the mountains will humble a person. How religion has not only functioned as a driver of culture but a beacon of hope. How communities intertwine and how individuals are forced to fill the gaps when the rest of the country has failed them. It’s about a loss but also a light in the near future. It’s about raising questions rather than having all the answers.