Centroid Towns: Appalachian Foothills

Centroid Towns is an anthology documentary project using photography, oral history interviews, and local archive research to study the twenty-five cities that have been the mean center of population of the United States. The symbolic center is calculated every ten years to accompany the United States Census, moving steadily west and south. The project puts a face to statistical data, chronicling these towns and their inhabitants to illuminate the ongoing social and political transformation of America. This idea of the “symbolic center” of the country is used as a fulcrum to examine the challenges facing the United States.

The Puffin Foundation supported travel and fieldwork in the fall of 2022 to Hillsboro, Ohio, the mean center of population for the 1870 census. “Centroid Towns: Appalachian Foothills” is a chapter of the larger project exploring the struggles of the working class and fights for environmental preservation in Hillsboro. Working in partnership with ARC of Appalachia, a nonprofit organization that acquires, stewards, and protects wildlands in South Central Ohio, I made new landscape photographs tracking efforts to remove invasive species, as well as the environmental tensions of development and preservation in the forests that they manage. This fieldwork is important progress in the project, and I will continue to return to document these environmental issues over an extended timeframe.