Published October 20, 2023

Anna Mullins, a documentary photographer, was one of the artists in the Virginia Folklife Appalachian Traditions tent at the 2023 Richmond Folk Festival. When Anna was growing up, her dad carried his camera everywhere, teaching her to “make a camera my companion as well.” After raising her family, Anna began to devote more time to photography. Today her work in the region, documenting its culture and peoples, connects on a raw, intimate and heartfelt level.

Anna Mullins, right, talks about her photos with a festival attendee in the Virginia Folklife Area at the Richmond Folk Festival. Photo by Pat Jarrett/Virginia Humanities

Anna herself is a caregiver to her husband, Sean, who lives and manages mental illness and panic attacks. She photographs him both during good moments and while she’s helping him through the throes of a mental episode, to make visible the invisible struggle mental illness inflicts on so many. “I feel like the stigma around mental illness is so embedded in our culture and in our language, and how we perceive people,” Anna said, “and I feel as a photographer, I have an eye that can expose not just the horrible and tragic, but also the hopeful moments.”  

Anna brought her camera with her to the festival, and has been sharing images she made. With her permission, we share them too, along with the reflections she posted on Facebook: 

“Some thoughts post Richmond Folk Festival.

This was a first for me. Most festivals I am the voyeur with camera in hand. Being a first time artist presenter was exhilarating, exhausting and I humbly learned the amount of work it takes. The folks at Virginia Folklife Program and Central Appalachia Living Traditions made this first deep dive one that I will hold dear. 

Virginia is an expansive, diverse landscape full and rich with tradition from a modern perspective. That I am passionate about our people and places I hope is evident. I can only be grateful for this opportunity and those who helped me be there. Here is just a sample of the moments I was a part of.”