I have spent the past two summers traveling and making pictures of landscapes that tell stories about people. This summer, I'm planning a shorter trip to Montana and a few parts of Wyoming. Here's a link to a Flickr set showing some of the images I've made so far for this project. The set includes brief story summaries about the locations and access to maps.
In Montana, I'm following a few different stories. One story is about the Berkeley Pit in the town of Butte. A former copper mine, the Pit is now a toxic lake contaminated with runoff from the mine. One stormy night, a flock of geese took shelter in the Pit, and were found the next morning floating dead on the water. Ironically, the geese deposited an organism that has adapted to the toxicity of the water. Scientists have discovered that this organism is, effectively, a sponge for heavy metals with the ability to consume toxic metals at an unprecedented rate. There's an excellent radio story about this from the program Radiolab, which is worth a listen.
Another story is in the town of Libby, where a vermiculite mining company failed to sufficiently warn their workers about the dangers of the asbestos contamination in the mine. Mine workers contaminated themselves, their families and their community with the asbestos that they unwittingly breathed in and brought out of the mine on their clothing.
Several other sites I'm looking into in Montana and Wyoming point to the contentious process of extracting natural gas, known as fracking. To access the gas, mining companies drill a hole thousands of feet deep and shoot a high pressure mixture of water and chemicals into the ground, cracking the shale to release methane. The process also releases the gas and the chemicals into the groundwater, which ends up in the local water system. Neighbors to these mining operations have the unfortunate ability to light their tap water on fire, in addition to numerous other health problems. Check out the article about this in a recent edition of Orion Magazine and the documentary GasLand.
In Wyoming, I intend to visit and photograph in Yellowstone National Park. Making pictures in Yellowstone is, of course, not a novel photographic venture; however, I am trying to create a greater balance in my series between positive and problematic uses of land. Yellowstone, being the first National Park ever established, remains a symbol of conservation and foresight that I believe would make an interesting contextual image in the series.
Since I started this project, one thing has become incredibly clear - for better or for worse, wherever there are people, people affect the land, and the land in turn effects us. What I want to show is that our connection to the land is ever-present and everywhere, and that our health depends directly upon the health of the land. We can not look at rivers or grass or trees or soil as something separate from ourselves.
I'm basing my timeline and funding needs upon the trip that I made last summer and the research I've done into flights and car rentals in Montana. The funding through Kickstarter would help pay for my flight, car rental, gas, camping fees, film and food for a ten day trip. Any donation will help, and I truly appreciate you taking time to look at my project.
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