Wichita Photo Exhibit Explores Legacy of FSA

Nov 26, 2015
Larry Schwarm

The Wichita Art Museum is currently showing an exhibit with roots that run deep through Kansas, reports member station KMUW. The show is entitled “No Mountains in the Way.” The idea behind the exhibit was to photograph Kansas the way it was portrayed during the Great Depression, with the photographers of the Farm Security Administration. The black and white images of farmers, haystacks and shop fronts provide a look at rural Kansas as seen through the lens of three photographers.

Lucas Foglia / Courtesy of Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, New York

In 2009 the photographer Lucas Foglia got lost in the Western wilds of Wyoming. For Foglia, who was raised on Long Island, the West was bigger and harsher than any landscape he’d ever seen. In a piece in The New York Times, Foglia talked about a realization he had. Folks in the West, he noticed, take care of each other; the unforgiving landscape requires it.

Jeff Bell

When our land is not covered with a brief blanket of white, “this is the time of the year when the grass is a dormant shade of brown and trees are denuded of leaves,” says Jeff Bell. 

Bell is a travel blogger.  His website is called Planet Bell

He usually leaves his camera in the case when he goes home to western Oklahoma.  But, this year he made an effort to get out and take photos, trying to see the land in a new light. 

The results are stunning.

Courtesy Marji Guyler-Alaniz/FarmHer

In a living room converted to a theater for the evening, Ethan Peterson and Madeleine Russell portray the characters from Mary Swander’s play, “VANG.” In it, the actors share the emotional stories of four immigrant couples who farm in Iowa. Swander used transcriptions of conversations with Hmong, Mexican, Sudanese and Dutch farmers to create the play.

Courtesy Randy Waln

Rural roadsides are littered with neglected homesteads, long-ago abandoned. I see them all the time driving across Nebraska. Fallen farmhouses. Blighted barns. Overgrown fencerows. They even have a fanclub on Facebook.

For Randy Waln, a graphic design professor at Peru State University in Peru, Neb., there’s something about a rusted-out truck or weed-covered roadway that stokes the imagination.