Book Fridays: picturing Southern life

This week, Facing South's Book Fridays brings you a selection of online photo essays.

Over at Southern Spaces, Earl Dotter presents "Coalfield Generations: Health, Mining, and the Environment," an exploration of mining communities in southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky. The photo essay documents the lives of people in Appalachia as they intersect with the coal mining industry. Since 1968, Earl Dotter has photographed miners in Appalachia, and has documented the lives of workers throughout the country. According to Southern Spaces:

In this photo essay set in mining communities of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, Earl Dotter seeks out changes in consumption and leisure, healthcare, coal mining practices, and the environment that have occurred since he first photographed in the region in 1968.

Here's a couple of older selections, but worth sharing.

Facing South has reported on the importance of coastal protection. Touted as one of the most innovative experimental travelblogs on the web, Erik Gauger's Notes from the Road has been around since 1999. The site combines Gauger's stunning photography with his engaging stories about people and places. In Catfish Heaven: Winter on the Bayou, Gauger presents a series of photos and narratives published just a few months before Hurricane Katrina. In this travelogue Gauger paddles and drives through the backwaters of Louisiana bayou country talking to people and photographing the local geography. Speaking with locals he hears what would soon prove to be prophetic announcements: "Louisiana will sink, or face horrific damage from a hurricane, unless efforts are made to reverse the damage to the coasts and bayous." For more information on Gauger, read his interview with TravelBlogs.

On a similar regional note, check out John Amrhein and Earl Robicheaux' Voices of Atchafalaya, photographs documenting the Atchafalaya Swamp Basin of south Louisiana. As the site explains, "by combining photographs with a soundscape composed from oral histories and ambient sounds, we hope to portray life in this region." Using photographs and oral histories to explore the rich folk heritage within the Atchafalaya Basin, the photographss were exhibited in Patterson, Louisiana in 2006. You can see a slideshow of some of the work here. According to the exhibit:

Featured are an Austrian oyster fisherman, the architecture of the Greek-based Florida shrimpboat, African-American storytelling traditions, French fisherman, a Native American traiteur, and others from this primordial and mystical world. The oral traditions of these cultures represent more than just a record of a previous time; rather, like the river that is their livelihood, sacred story flows through the generations, nourishing and nurturing them, and providing us all with an understanding of the nature of past, present, and future. Named for the Choctaw words for long (atcha) river (falaya), the river becomes a metaphor for that which binds generations, a keeper of dreams in south Louisiana.

John Ficara's Black Farmers in America project was published as a book in 2006 and ran as an exhibit throughout that year. The Digital Journalist did a feature on Ficara's project, and still has a photo gallery of some of the photography featured in the project. Ficara, an international award-winning photojournalist and documentary photographer, spent four years photographing Black farmers across America, witnessing firsthand the difficulties faced by families who simply want to continue living and working on their land. The photographs capture a portrait of America's Black farmers as their numbers dwindle. From the Digital Journalist:

Those of us concerned with the welfare of meaningful photography take some heart whenever a worthy project gets exhibited and published. John Francis Ficara's elegant take on black farmers in America documents a vanishing way of life and points to failures of social justice that sadly contribute to its passing. The book and exhibitions from his project are a significant contribution to the photographic ethnography of what has been one of our country's most important institutions, the independent family farm.

For more information on the book visit the University Press of Kentucky. Also check out this NPR report interviewing Ficara back in 2006: Twilight for Black Farms.

(First photo from Voices of Atchafalaya site and second photo from NPR.)