Mile 806 of the Appalachian Trail
by Parker Michels-Boyce and Chet Strange
Ever wondered what motivates individuals to walk the entire Appalachian Trail? From Georgia to Maine, the 2190 mile long trail connects 14 states. Hikers from all over the world choose to hike parts or the entire trail. What enthuses these Individuals?
This photo series exhibits portraits of individuals encountered on the Appalachian Trail at mile 806 and their stories. Several hikers also provided their journals of the trail hike for the exhibit, allowing visitors to experience very personal thoughts and revelations which occurred on the hike. Additional surprises will await patrons. Parker and Chet will discuss their encounters as well as the background of this project. Opening night is Friday, January 13th. The exhibit is scheduled to continue until February 17th.
Parker Michels-Boyce is a Virginia-based photographer specializing in documentary work, portraiture, and event coverage. A passionate outdoorsman, Parker is interested in documenting ways in which people interact with and affect the natural world. He received his degree in photojournalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and currently works as the chief photographer at Randolph College in Lynchburg, VA. His pictures have been published in the New York Times, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Virginian-Pilot, USA Today, and msnbc.com’s Week in Pictures gallery.
Chet Strange is a commercial and editorial photographer based in Richmond, Virginia. A 2013 graduate of Indiana University, Chet studied photojournalism and environmental science, passions born out of a desire to understand how humans affect, and are affected by, the world around them. His current work focuses on social and environmental issues.
After college, Chet began work as a staff photojournalist in Southern Indiana, telling the stories of the people and places in small town America. After leaving Indiana, he became a freelancer covering primarily the East Coast and Appalachia, working for national clients such as the New York Times, Monocle Magazine, The Associated Press, The Washington Post and others. His work has been seen in National Geographic, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, USA Today, and newspapers and periodicals worldwide.
The Appalachian Trail spans 2,190 miles, winding through 14 states from Georgia to Maine. With 3 million visitors annually, the footpath attracts many hikers eager to explore the great outdoors for an afternoon. But it also hosts thousands each summer who leave their loved ones and modern conveniences behind to hike its entirety, a journey that frequently takes 6 months to complete. The “thru-hikers” comprise a temporary, transient community, bonded together through the challenge of navigating the longest hiking-only route in the world.
“Although the trail is about getting back to nature it’s also getting back to real human connections. I was expecting the wonderful nature part but I wasn’t expecting the human aspect to be so wonderful as well.” -Terrible Lizard, 2016 thru-hiker
With the intention of showing a cross section of this community, we set out to make portraits of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers in the midst of their journey. We wanted the portraits to focus on the individuals and their heavy loads, so we chose to eliminate any signs of the natural trail environment. We constructed a makeshift photo studio on the trail itself, setting up lights to overpower the natural light, and a black backdrop to separate the subjects from the rain-soaked foliage on Cold Mountain. Rather than photograph the hikers at the beginning or the end, we decided to photograph them in the midst their journey, well-adjusted to trail life but with hundreds of miles still to go. We have both spent a good amount of time hiking and backpacking in many parts of the country and this project is also a tribute to the countless people we have met along the trails over the years.