Rich-Joseph Facun – Little Cities

Review by Gerhard Clausing

Studying cultures is like conducting philological detective work with a palimpsest manuscript from the Middle Ages. New phenomena arise and mostly wipe out evidence from the past. So it is with the American cultural studies in this project by Rich-Joseph Facun. The original indigenous cultures of Ohio seem to have been submerged in the vast American cultural framework of the present, and remnants of that culture appear here and there as they have been absorbed in the vast melting pot now known as the United States of America. The same phenomenon can be observed in many locations, such as in the European holiday market atmosphere in which I am writing this review right now, where hand-carved decorations sold in the past have been mostly replaced by internationally manufactured trinkets.

Facun is a very astute observer of his surroundings and presents his visual evidence in a very low-key manner. This photobook is printed on paper that allows a low-contrast, subdued appearance of the images. Thus there is a dreamlike mood which makes us imagine that we are walking through a twilight wonderland that is a product created in someone’s dreams. We see old cars and signs that have been decorated with a variety of graffiti, as well as bits and pieces that point to a once predominant population that has now been absorbed – a magical partial glimpse of the past seen through glasses of the present. A few names can be seen that point to former times, for instance, a column on a house looks like a totem pole.

Most especially, there is a photograph of an indigenous burial mound. At the end of the book Facun presents the two sides of an old picture postcard from the mid-twentieth century. The lady has written a note that points out the possibility for the recipient’s children to play ‘Indian’ games at this location. This can be seen as evidence for the nature of the attitudes of the dominant population toward history which, among other things, ignore the significance of sacred sites among the indigenous people.  Lack of awareness and respect can certainly affect one’s views on what transpired in the past, and can also serve as techniques to cover up injustices that happened in previous times. Something to think about!

This photobook is generously laid out in a way that allows us to contemplate the various locations and possible issues depicted. The dreamlike world of amalgamation and acculturation that is shown here may be in Ohio, but it is closer than we think, wherever we may be. The cultural evidence left behind by those who came before us gives us hints about who we are and who we may become. This project serves as an excellent reminder for us to value the cultural contributions of the past even as relatively few of them remain evident in our time.

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The PhotoBook Journal previously featured a review of Rich-Joseph Facun’s Black Diamonds.

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Gerhard Clausing, PBJ Associate Editor, is an author and photographer from Southern California.

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Rich-Joseph Facun – Little Cities

Photographer:  Rich-Joseph Facun (born in Pensacola, Florida; lives in Millfield, Ohio)

Publisher:  Little Oak.PRESS, Charlottesville, Virginia; © 2022

Essay:  Rich-Joseph Facun

Language:  English

Hardcover, debossed, sewn binding; 128 pages, unpaginated, with 59 color photographs, including two images of an inscribed historical picture postcard; 19.6 x 23.5 cm / 7.75 x 9.25 inches; printed and bound in Slovenia by ODDI. ISBN: 978-1-7358143-5-3 (First edition of 500)

Photobook Designer:  Juan Aranda

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Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). All images, texts, and designs have been copyrighted by the authors and publishers.

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