"Panhandle Portraits, a Glimpse at the Diverse Residents of West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle," is a newly published coffee table book set by Katherine Cobb. The book features portraits of West Virginians and their unique characteristics in two volumes.
The two-volume, 176-page set contains 77 portraits, with some photos featuring more than one person, plus an introduction, index and local fun facts.
The project blends Cobb’s loves of writing and photography into one. She traversed all eight counties of West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle — Berkeley, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral, Morgan and Pendleton — to find subjects to portray. Panhandle Portraits features athletes, historians, doctors, artists, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, adventurers, volunteers, farmers, pastors, mavericks, business owners, beloved community members, trailblazers, survivors, mentors and leaders.
“I wanted to show the breadth and depth of West Virginians. We have such an interesting population, both people who have lived here for several generations and others who arrived at various junctures but who have made a significant contribution in some way,” said Cobb.
“It’s also no secret West Virginians are often negatively stereotyped, and I find that frustrating. The people here are like anyone in any other state. I enjoyed putting something positive about our citizens into print.”
She conceived the project a year ago. "Once I decided to explore the concept and began taking photos and doing the interviews, it took me on a wild adventure. I thoroughly enjoyed all of my trips throughout the Panhandle. I also enjoyed meeting many new folks and learning their stories, as well as photographing subjects I knew already. The real beauty of the book is how it connects us and reminds us of our humanity.”
Although the subject matter varies greatly, Cobb spotlighted industries and organizations that are prevalent in the Eastern Panhandle, including horse racing, car racing, history preservation, war re-enactment, agriculture and outdoor adventure. She also kept a focus on the everyday person.
“I like finding the extraordinary in the everyday, and always enjoy writing about people who fit that category. I profiled that type of person in my book, but also included a few superstars — world champions and some others well-known for their accomplishments.”
Cobb is a freelance writer for publications throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, and has written a young adult novel, "Skyline Higher." She also contributes a rotating column about addiction to The Observer. Readers can learn more about Cobb and order books through her website, www.katherinecobb.com.
"Panhandle Portraits" is available in paperback through Amazon.com, and will be stocked at some bookstores and gift shops throughout West Virginia. She will do a book signing from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, at Black Dog Coffee, 8001 Charles Town Road, Shenandoah Junction, West Virginia.