A piece of my Heart, Toccopola, MS

Over a period of six years, while living in a rural community in north Mississippi, I wrestled with my identity and place—newly married in a new state, a city girl moving to a small town, and, a later, a new mother.

Like many small communities, you can drive through Toccopola and not even realize you have done so. Yet, as I adjusted to new rhythms, there emerged, slowly, the unquenchable desire to make sense of the, at times, imperceptible changes occurring and to show the beauty amidst decay.

As I did so, the richer and fuller my understanding became of this place and, eventually, of my place. Friendships were made, meals shared, weather watched, crops harvested, businesses opened, buildings burned or reclaimed by nature.

Changes and experiences that were incredibly difficult for me are, in hindsight, beautiful and full of meaning and rooted in that landscape and with those neighbors.

I still mourn that place and question leaving—it has a piece of my heart and always will.


Ashleigh Coleman is a southern photographer whose work engages the landscape surrounding her.

While Ashleigh attended the University of South Carolina to study Art History, English and Russian Literature, her passion was always photography. After moving to Mississippi, Ashleigh (re)turned her full gaze to photography and to applying her understanding of the theory of defamiliarization– seeing afresh that which is familiar and commonplace– to what she photographs, whether that is an old building, a field with shadows, or people she meets along the way. When her camera is not being used, Ashleigh is corralling three children, reading books, and eating blue cheese, but not all three at once.

For more info about the artist and her works, visit: ashleighcoleman.com/