Malcolm J. Wilson

Photo By Doug Murray

Photo By Doug Murray

There is a blurry home movie clip that exists of a towheaded Malcolm J. Wilson toddling around at age three, dwarfed by a camera swinging from his neck.
Growing up in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, Malcolm was born with an insatiable quest for knowledge, and would often bring library books home by the Radio Flyer wagon load. Early on, he developed a passion for science, and his Science Fair winning skills was the stuff of legends in Harlan County. Like many boys growing up during the Cold War, he dreamed of building rockets and working for NASA someday.
Then, the summer between his junior and senior years in high school, the fates intervened. Something made Malcolm pick up the camera again, and he never looked back. Trying to reconcile his left brain analytical side, with his reawakened right brain creative side, Malcolm accepted a full Engineering scholarship to the University of Kentucky.
Then, he had an epiphany in an Advanced Calculus class.  
The professor had worn the same tie every day that week. The food spilled on it read like a journal of the man’s week. Mustard on Monday. Chili on Tuesday…formulas and equations gave way to Malcolm’s overwhelming desire to photograph the professor. He gathered his books, walked out of the classroom and away from his scholarship, and went home and hid from his father for two weeks. (The story has a happy ending though. Wilson later returned to college as a non-traditional student).

A photographer for over 40 years, Wilson is also a web designer, writer, journalist, documentarian, artist and jack-of-other-trades now living in the mountains of Blackey, Kentucky.
Originally from Cumberland, Kentucky in Harlan County, he graduated from Cumberland High School in Cumberland, Kentucky. In the early 1980s, Wilson left the mountains to attend Northern Kentucky University majoring in Fine Arts (Photography) and minoring in journalism.

Ironically, Wilson spent eighteen years in Cincinnati documenting the plight of those urban Appalachians who had to leave the mountains to find work. He spent a large part of his career as a journalist, working for small papers in eastern Kentucky and metropolitan papers in the Cincinnati area. He also worked as a stringer for United Press International (UPI) and the Associated Press (AP) during his career.

As a commercial photographer, his client list in Cincinnati included The Cincinnati Post, Kings Island, the Cincinnati Reds, Cincinnati Bengals and the Associated Press. Wilson’s photographs have appeared in hundreds of publications and websites around the world including Sports Illustrated, The New York Daily News, The New York Times, Chicago Tribune and USA Today.

Circa 1978

Circa 1978

Wilson is considered by many to be a pioneer in the realm of digital photography and the computer as a digital darkroom. He first began working with digital image manipulation using the computer nearly two decades ago. Using fractal design programs and “Photo Styler” the program that gave birth to the industry standard Photoshop, Wilson was one of the first artists/photographers to exhibit digital imagery in galleries in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In 2000, Wilson moved to Bristol, Tennessee and formed Graphic Bliss Advertising with then partner, and later, wife, Jennifer Molley Wilson. Malcolm’s high-impact photography and unique, cutting-edge design quickly gained regional and national recognition for his clients. After growing Graphic Bliss, Wilson sold the agency to his employees, and began working exclusively with marketing, research and promotion for commercial and residential real estate development. After several years in land development, Wilson was presented with the opportunity to rebrand himself as a highly-sought independent marketing consultant after several previous clients inquired about assistance with their marketing efforts.

Humans And A History of Documentary Work

Wilson launched the Humans of Central Appalachia (HOCA) Facebook page in June, 2015, as a documentary project aimed at presenting honest stories from Appalachia in an effort to quell stereotypes perpetuated about the region by mainstream shock culture photographers.

The page struck a chord, not only with Appalachians living within the region, but also with those who were forced to leave the area to find jobs, as well as those with no ties to the region, but with a natural curiosity about its residents. Based on percentages, Humans of Central Appalachia is the fastest-growing “Humans of” page on Facebook, garnering nearly 400 new likes weekly. Now rapidly approaching 31K likes, the page has followers from 45 countries, six continents and reflects 38 different languages.

As an Appalachian telling the story of Appalachia, Wilson is passionate about ensuring the accuracy of that message. With Humans of Central Appalachia, he strives to present a constantly shifting living history repository where the minutia of daily life in Appalachia contributes to a larger story. Wilson sees HOCA as an important continuation of the story he began decades ago with other documentary projects spanning his career.

The Appalachian Archives at Southeast Community and Technical College in Harlan County, Kentucky, houses nearly a quarter of a million of Wilson's negatives from his nearly forty years of documenting our Appalachian story. He has documented the depths of sorrow, the height of jubilation and the routine.

Wilson’s work has been exhibited in the Appalachian region and nationally. His work is included in permanent collections at the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center, Southeast Community College Appalachian Archives and The Kennedy Center Gallery and Archives, the Julia Louis Dreyfuss Collection and in the collections of several local patrons. In 1994, Wilson’s documentary photo project, Women of Coal: A Changing Image won the prestigious Kentucky Humanities Council Humanities Project of the Year award. The project was developed to break the stereotypical views of Appalachian women. Appalachian Realities was shown at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC in conjunction with the Pulitzer Prize winning play, Kentucky Cycle. Wilson was the first photographer allowed to exhibit in the Kennedy Center.

Helping Your Business Grow Through Collaboration

Until the day when altruism is rewarded with earthly gains, as opposed to ethereal ones, Wilson utilizes the same passion-driven work ethic that has exploded recognition of Humans of Central Appalachia to grow and expand brand awareness of business initiatives across the Southeast. Today, Wilson represents a wide cross-section of socially-conscious businesses and industry, all of who benefit from his well-rounded expertise and natural promotional instincts.

As a highly acclaimed fine art and documentary photographer, Wilson is in much demand for high-end corporate portrait, lifestyle and product photography, as well as for his fine art photography which graces the offices of many regional businesses and hangs in several national restaurant chain locations throughout the area. Always on the cusp of emerging digital photography tools, Wilson commands a photographic arsenal rivaled only by the industry’s heavy shooters, including tools for video and action and adventure photography.

It was only natural that Wilson would turn his keen, photographer’s eye to the production of hard-hitting digital design pieces. His design and promotional work has received numerous accolades and national and worldwide. In addition to photography, he specializes in compliant, easy to navigate websites with substance and impact to showcase your product, service or brand.

A life-long learner and natural educator, Wilson teaches photography classes and holds digital photography workshops throughout the Appalachian southeast.

“The best service I offer is collaboration,” says Wilson. “As I often say, ‘It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle.’ Often, we see clients who are so intertwined with their business, and take such ownership in their processes; they need to take a step away to see that they just aren’t working,” he added.

From business consultancy services, to being a soundboard for innovative ideas, Wilson can see your business in a new light, and provide you with the honest assessment and marketing audit you need to get to the next step.
Are you prepared to grow? Contact Malcolm today.

The Late Jennifer Molley Wilson
(June 28, 1962-January 17, 2018)

Jennifer Molley Wilson was born in Harlan, Kentucky, a full month earlier than expected, arriving as a gangling slip of a human. The family’s big weekly event was packing her down to Mack’s grocery store where the butchers would place her on the meat scale so everyone could see how much weight she was gaining.

Jennifer grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee, graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School, and subsequently spent several years in California where she attended California State University at Hayward majoring in Mass Communications with minors in advertising and photography, got married and had a daughter…not necessarily in that order.

In 1984, she moved to Bristol, Tennessee where she has been until March 2016, making the world a better place through a long career in marketing, advertising and communications in healthcare, tourism and local government. She currently serves as a rural project manager for the University of Kentucky's Office of Rural Health in Hazard, Kentucky. Jennifer currently resides in Blackey, Kentucky.

In 1999, Jennifer and HOCA co-founder, Malcolm J. Wilson met online amidst a series of serendipitous coincidences that can only best be explained over copious amounts of cocktails.

In 2002, the duo married, forming a dynamic team whose combined skills make them a creative force to be reckoned with. Together, the couple has three grown children, three grandchildren, three dogs, two cats, a passion for art and Appalachian culture, and a desire to make a difference in the world. Jennifer passed on January 17, 2018. Rest in peace lovely lady!

A mobile photographer, Wilson draws inspiration from the precision born from randomness. The objects that gather in some forgotten corner. The fading facade of a forlorn past. These are the images she is compelled to preserve, drawn more to the components that comprise an experience, than the experience, itself.

Wilson’s photographs captures objects just as they are found, and just as they have been stepped over, and gone unnoticed for a significant period of time. It belies her artistic message to rearrange objects that have already been posed by serendipity.

Using an iPhone 6 and the Hipstamatic 310 camera app, shooting under the name, "The HipstaChick," she has exhibited her work globally as a featured artist in Hipstamatics’s “Adventures in Hipstaland.” Her portfolio, “Jennifer’s Bristol,” brought international attention to Bristol, TN/VA as being the first US city featured in the installation. Although she is never far from her trusty iPhone and its myriad of accessories, Wilson also shoots with a Pentax Q and an assortment of vintage film cameras.

Hipstamatic is a camera app that allows the iPhone to mimic the plastic lensed, toy cameras popularized by the lomography art movement (i.e. Diana, Holga, etc.) Through the selective pairing of both virtual lenses and film, the photographer remains in complete creative control of the image and the mood conveyed.

Wilson’s photography exploits frequently garner curious stares, polite conversation and the attention of the local authorities.

Wilson has a variety of interests that, for the sake of domestic tranquility, her fully-supportive husband refers to as “jags.” She is a writer, photographer, gypsy, collector of people and rescuer of critters. On occasion, she leaves the confines of her “interest room,” which sadly, does not include a kitchen, to hone her vegan chef skills by making foodstuffs which any normal, rational human would simply purchase from a grocery store. She vehemently believes that one cannot have too many critters, too many pairs of glasses, or too many bottles of nail polish. A true hillbilly hippie chick, Jennifer is also interested in more esoteric pursuits such as crystal healing, aromatherapy and the creation of natural skin care and home cleaning products. She is the creator of a line of clothing made from upcycled t-shirts under the HipstaThreads brand. Inspired by powerful memories of her Papaw, Wilson's New Year's resolution for 2016 is to learn how to smoke a pipe.