Photographer Rich-Joseph Facun | Branches against a cloudy grey background

Focal Point: Rich-Joseph Facun on Appalachia, US

July 26, 2022

Photojournalist Rich-Joseph Facun explores his new home in the Appalachian foothills of Ohio with compelling photography of people and places

Rich-Joseph Facun roamed the globe for over a decade as a photojournalist, his images appearing in publications including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Vox and The Atlantic. His work is known for opening a visual gateway into fringe, endangered and bygone cultures, influenced by his own Indigenous Mexican and Filipino descent.

When Facun relocated his family to a quiet corner of Ohio’s coal country, the photographer was compelled to turn his lens on former Appalachian mining towns in the region. His first monograph Black Diamonds (published in 2021 by Fall Line Press) is a “personal endeavour” , and as he explains it, “an effort to connect with and understand the region I now call home”.

The series traces communities shaping a new future following the short-lived, coal-fired prosperity that fuelled bygone days of these American mining boomtowns, with austere landscapes and shards of towns interspersed with piercing portraits. “People often ask what factors determine who I photograph for Black Diamonds,” says Facun. “In many cases, I’m simply drawn to the person through intuition. More often than not, I feel a connection with them that mirrors an element of familiarity I’ve experienced in myself.”

“During the process of making images for what would become Black Diamonds, I almost always had my camera alongside me. Quite often I made photographs while running errands and heading from point A to point B,” says Facun. “Whenever I’m tasked with being on the road I always try to leave a little early. This allows me to drive slowly while taking everything in and pull over when I see something that piques my curiosity.”

Facun’s ode to southeastern Ohio continues with his second monograph Little Cities, due to be published in August 2022 by Little Oak Press. He adds: “One of the most admirable traits of the Appalachian folk I have met is their resilience and resourceful nature.”

Photographer Rich-Joseph Facun | empty battered cardboard boxes sit in front of peeling, patterned green wallpaper and a boarded up sash windowPhotographer Rich-Joseph Facun | A white topless man faces a wall, away from the camera, wearing a tool belt, and light shines on his bare back, casting a shadow of a cross. It's a lung screening for coal miners
Photographer Rich-Joseph Facun | A scene from Appalachian, looking over some grey-toned wooden houses into a mist-covered valley
Black Diamonds
Photographer Rich-Joseph Facun | A woman with short pink hair wearing a yellow vest top and bright-pink shorts stands in front of a white-boarded single-storey house
Black Diamonds
Photographer Rich-Joseph Facun | a grey pickup truck is park against the back of a white-boarded house underneath a McDonalds signPhotographer Rich-Joseph Facun | A battered American flag blows against a white-board building, against a pale-grey sky
Photographer Rich-Joseph Facun | A young girl with brown hair and wearing a black dress wears a high tiara and a sash
Black Diamonds
Photographer Rich-Joseph Facun | A brown goat stretches its neck up and sticks out its tongue to get to some tiny green leaves on a tree with bare branches
Black Diamonds
Photographer Rich-Joseph Facun | Some tall, skinny trees cast silhouettes in a grey mistPhotographer Rich-Joseph Facun | A beauty pageant in Nelsonville, with a float topped by three beauty queens waving to the crowd
Photographer Rich-Joseph Facun | A view into Nelsonville in the Appalachian foothills, over a single-story whiteboard house and into the valley beyond
Black Diamond
Photographer Rich-Joseph Facun | Someone wears a white bedsheet with two holes for eyes, like a ghost
Black Diamond

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