For 15 of the past 18 years, Rich-Joseph Facun worked as a photojournalist. But after bouncing around, with his family, from state to state and then country to country, he decided to put down some roots. He and his wife bought land in the foothills of Appalachia. For three years, he put the camera down and found himself occupied by other pursuits like working his land and taking the kids to music lessons or track meets or skateboarding. Facun told In Sight, “I never had any desire to pick up my camera and work. Country life had me swooning.” But one day that changed.
In January, Facun felt the urge to start photographing. One day, as he was leaving his doctor’s office, he made eye contact with a young man with tattoos and piercings. He and the young man talked for a bit, and Facun headed to his truck. As he sat in his truck, he kept telling himself he needed to grab his camera and take the man’s portrait. He tried to fight the urge but lost. The portrait he made became the first image of a new series he has started working on, focusing on a region of Appalachia the locals call the “Little Cities of Black Diamonds,” communities established in the coal-mining boomtowns of the past.
Facun told In Sight about the project:
“I’ve always had an interest in local history, no matter where I’ve lived, so it seemed obvious that I explore my town and those surrounding it. I’ve become fascinated with the idea that this region’s story is central to America’s evolution from colonial wilderness to an industrial superpower. … I felt a need to meet the people who make up my community. Some of these people are the descendants of those who built this nation from the power of coal to the clay bricks that still line the streets of the Little Cities of Black Diamonds. … I hope to make work that reads as a poem, a swan song to my neighbors. A reflection on the beauty of land and the resilience of those who I call friend. There is so much more to Appalachia than poverty, opioid addiction and other stereotypes that have been inflicted on the Appalachian folk. It is really quite beautiful here. In the end, I hope to honor the people and places I document.”
In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.
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