Have you ever read a sign that tells you to look at something only to look in that direction and see nothing? In the reclamation process of land from former coal mining sites, that’s just what it’s like. I sometimes see signs that say “Mine Reclamation Project” and see nothing but a bunch of trees, bushes or a field of grass. This visual deception lies at the complexity of mine reclamation and at what I’m trying to do with the visual representation of the phenomenon. The scars left by mining are at times so subtle to the unknowing eye; people who have lived their entire lives in Ohio have said to me, “I had no idea there was mining in Ohio.” This is a coal company’s dream but a place of concern. What coal mining does to the landscape is often covered by an illusion of normalcy. A sign like this may point to a reclaimed coal treatment pond that looks like any other murky water, but the reality is this natural setting is forever altered by man.
Archive for May, 2007
Years ago I made this same photograph, only then it was an old guy in New Hampshire with a push lawn mower in front of his picturesque home. Just put together an old guy, a strange method to mowing ones lawn in front of a pleasant background. It’s a formula, follow it and you’ve got a “feature photograph.” When I realized I had made a nearly duplicate image only a few years ago I felt a sense of failure as a creative person. It was like writing the screenplay to a Hollywood movie only to come out with the sequel a few years later; same characters, same plot, diffent year.
When I saw this image through the camera I knew it would fit well in my documentary project about the reclamation of former coal mined land. It’s the entrance to a section of forest on a reclaimed piece of land.
After a talk in class about this photograph and others like it, I began to take my project in a more calculated direction. My initial thought was to basically photograph like I would anything else, which meant candidly. But for a number of the images in this project, things aren’t moving away from me. Moments aren’t flashing by. So in photographing something as slow moving as a landscape, why not set the camera on a tripod, arrange everything slowly and then click the shutter?