"Distant Echoes: Black Farmers in America," a photographic exhibition which depicts the lives and working conditions of black farmers from various parts of the United States, will be on exhibit Monday, Jan. 14 through Saturday, Feb. 23 in the Squires Student Center's Perspective Gallery on the Virginia Tech campus.
The exhibition features the work of John Francis Ficara, an award-winning photojournalist and documentary photographer who has worked for Newsweek and several other national and international magazines. Ficara will speak on the American Black Farmers Project on Tuesday, Jan. 22 at 3 p.m. in Brush Mountain Room A on the third floor of the student center. His presentation will be followed by a reception and book-signing from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Perspective Gallery.
Distant Echoes is comprised of 60 photographic images taken by Ficara that capture signs of adversity, and endurance, and of poverty and self-determination. Ficara’s photographic documentary includes African American farmers from Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Michigan that chronicle a battle with economics and discrimination.
This is a story about losing a way of life, a loss of tradition for many families, and indignities still often experienced by African Americans today.
“When you looked at mainstream media, they always reported the story in tangible terms: land loss, financial loss, and profits down, farm costs up,” Ficara told The Washington Post. “I saw this story in humanistic terms, a way of life disappearing, and the end to traditional family farming."
The Distant Echoes exhibit and the book Black Farmers in America are the culmination of a 4-year photographic documentary project by Ficara. In 1999, Ficara began a quest to capture the images for Black Farmers in America, traveling throughout the southeastern United States to record a vanishing era. Ficara photographed the antiquated machinery, the beautiful and productive land, the vigorous crops, and the farmers themselves. Black Farmers in America, with photographs by Ficara and an essay by NPR correspondent and author Juan Williams, is a visual document of the final generation of black family farmers.
John Ficara has traveled the globe as an editorial photographer, photographing domestic and international news and politics. His assignments have taken him to 84 countries around the world. He has covered the White House for Newsweek magazine through five presidential campaigns and four administrations and has produced 38 cover images for Newsweek as well as covers for a variety of domestic and international magazines. He has won numerous awards and honors. The American Black Farmers Project, documenting the disappearing black family farmer in America, has been awarded the White House News Photographers Documentary Grant and the National Press Photographers/Nikon Documentary Sabbatical Grant.