Rebecca Bengal at The Paris Review:
In 1976, twenty-five-year-old Wendy Ewald rented a small house on Ingram Creek in a remote landscape in eastern Kentucky, hoping to make a photographic document of “the soul and rhythm of the place.” As she writes in an essay included in the expanded new edition of Portraits and Dreams: Photographs and Stories By Children of The Appalachians, originally published in 1985, her camera landed on the “commonplaces” of Letcher County. Set in the Cumberland Mountains at the edge of Kentucky and Virginia, Lechter Country is in the rural, rolling, rugged, coal-mining heart of the still sprawling and still vastly misunderstood and frequently mispronounced region known as Appalachia (the correct pronunciation is Appa-LATCH-uh). More than a decade before Ewald’s arrival, the publication of Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area, by local lawyer and environmental crusader Harry Caudill, had helped spur John F. Kennedy and later Lyndon B. Johnson to declare war on poverty in Letcher County and regions like it. But Ewald did not intend to photograph “poverty,” or to photograph the place in the reductive way it had come to be depicted. She was interested in the way the people pictured themselves.