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PHOTO SUBMITTED BY: Appalachia_Howie


People either hated or loved the Mire. With its swampy pitfalls and strangler vines, the risk for disease or, worse, death was high. But there was also a beauty in the Mire that couldn’t be overlooked. No other place in Appalachia looked like the sun was touching the earth when those rays of light cut through the trees. No other place in Appalachia could mirror a starry sky when the bio-luminescence of the inkiest pockets blossomed to life.

No other place in Appalachia held Howie’s heart the same way.

The dust of countless miles from all over was deeply pressed into his clothes; the images of a thousand wonders were captured on his film. Whatever he’d been in his former life, it was now an echo that faded into obscurity. Something new remained. Perhaps it had always been there, this passion for pausing and seeing the world through a lens that could shatter a soul as easily as it could light up a laugh. The easy choice was to accept the abysmal fate of the world upon emergence from the vault--to become the broken and despondent, or the desperate and violent--but Howie rejected all of it.

With the first click of his ProSnap, Howie recognized within himself the shift from mere survivor just trying to find the next bit of scrap, to a human being that saw more than death and ash. More alive now than ever before, Howie documented everything, from the delicate, whispered beat of a firefly’s wing to the catastrophic force of a colossus’ scream. Portraits of friends, poses of humor as often as grief, were counted in his portfolio. The very land itself was among the photojournal he kept, a flower’s petal held the same power as a sweeping shot from the Devil’s Backbone.

But for all of that, the Mire held Howie’s heart. When the film was spent and the days of travel ground heavy into him, the photographer would find his way back to the Mire. Deep within the vegetation, beyond the remains of a camp that once was, Howie had time to reflect on all that he’d seen and to reconnect with his friends. Around a simple fire with bellies full and drinks in hand, the stories were there to swap, each one bringing a new chapter to their shared existence. And when the fire was dying down and the drinks were nearing the end, the next big idea would be born. What would the next challenge be?

Howie grinned beneath the sackhood, his body already feeling rejuvenated by the first few steps back within the Mire. It was time to get the food prepared and the drinks cold; they’d be arriving soon and ready to spend the day, well into the night, basking in the companionship that kept them striving ever forward, creating a myriad of memories through both story and snapshot.

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