Appalachia has been stripped of its resources, primarily coal and timber, the region’s poverty rate has soared to 35 percent. Many residents of mining communities like McDowell County, West Virginia lack basic services like health care and transportation and broadband internet, reports Sarah Jones.

“The region and its people remain poor for a simple reason: They were shaped by a legacy of extraction and exploitation,” notes Jones.

Jones says she left her “corner of Appalachia in 2013” looking for work, and she’s not sure she’ll ever return though she feels connected to “its culture, its idioms, its struggles” more than ever.

Some people there, she explains, may turn to conservative politics or opioid painkillers because false promises made by politicians, like President Trump’s empty promise to bring back coal jobs, and cheap drugs abound in Appalachia but the people there, Jones insists, are no less intelligent and no less determined than any other poor Americans struggling to survive in a changing economy.

Photographer Espen Rasmussen looks beyond the stereotypes, capturing some of the people we expect to see and some we do not.

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