Our human landscape is our unwitting autobiography… the culture of any nation is unintentionally reflected in its ordinary vernacular landscape. – Pierce Lewis, as quoted by Lucy Lippard in The Lure of the Local.
Just what does a river, still tainted orange with acid mine drainage fifty years after the mines have closed, say about the culture and the people of a region? Is it symbolic of our priorities? This work intends to use beauty in the service of the ugly truth that iron oxides, sulfates, and other minerals continue to pour into the Lackawanna River near Scranton, Pennsylvania as well as many other communities in this country. The minerals, disturbed during the region’s coal mining era, are still funneled into the river in such a large volume that the southernmost three miles of the waterway, that bisects several small communities, is lifeless and barren.
We are all to some extent the products of an exploitative society. – Wendell Barry, The Unsettling of America.
The land use patterns of the past need to give way to a new respect for the land in the area presented here in still photography and in the video Seeing Orange. A fundamental shift must take place if the area is ever going to recover environmentally, economically, and spiritually from the failure of the old extraction-based way of life.
It is my hope that this work can be a catalyst for change for the embattled ecosystems of the Lackawanna and for the surrounding community.
We have made of the rivers and oceans niggers to carry away our refuse, which we are too good to dispose of decently ourselves. – Wendell Barry
Tim Butler earned his MFA from San Jose State University in California in 2002 and his BA in photography from the University of Delaware in 1988. He currently lives and makes art in Scranton, PA, his native state, where he also teaches at Marywood University. His work is centered on the environment as well as the history and culture of his community. Prior to his post at Marywood, Butler taught photography at Notre Dame High School and San Jose State University, and was a staff photographer for the Scranton Times-Tribune from 1991-1998. His work has been exhibited on both coasts in such venues as the BC Space Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA; Mount Diablo College in Pleasanton, CA; and the Art Institute of Boston.