There are two threads that run through the photography I have contributed to the “Marcellus Shale Documentary Project”.
The panoramic landscape images are an attempt to grapple with the idea of a large, industrial process inserted into a rural setting. There is clearly a sense that there is something out of place, yet, contrary to expectations, Marcellus Shale operations can sometimes have an enigmatic, “now you see it” quality. Gas sites are generally large and obtrusive, and may often be seen from a great distance; but proximity to a well does not always guarantee visual contact. Topography often intervenes. A drill site often announces itself before it comes into view, by the noise or the lights. And so, often what is unseen becomes apparent on turning a bend in the road or reaching the brow of a hill. It is the idea – that such a large scale, invasive industrial space can hide in plain sight – that was so intriguing.
The landscape images helped to see what Marcellus Shale activity is on the surface, and also I want to try to understand what that actually means to the people who are made to live with this industry. Hence the documentary series, which records moments in the lives of people who have been affected by the industry, for better and for worse. These images help raise the question how we, as a community, treat each other, and what level of deprivation, for some individuals, we are willing to allow for the sake of what some consider a greater imperative.
Brian Cohen is a graduate of the Royal College of Art, and holds a Ph.D. in Art History from Binghamton University at the State University of New York with expertise in Visual Culture Studies. Cohen specializes in documentary and editorial photography, and he has published work on the role of photography in shaping public opinion. His latest photographic work focuses on documenting Pittsburgh’s remarkable transition and is featured regularly on the website, www.popcitymedia.com.