The series of images in this exhibit take the viewer on a journey to bear witness to the process of mountaintop removal coal mining as seen in the forested mountains of West Virginia. The practice typically entails the rapid removal of anything above a coal seam (“overburden”) via deforestation, blasting and excavation, generally into the adjacent valley. The coal is subsequently removed via large dump trucks to be washed with volumes of water and chemicals in preparation for shipping via train to a distribution point or final user.
The impacted landscapes I document are typically hidden, so flying over the sites is the only way to grasp the magnitude of the changes – the aerial perspective is also inherently intriguing to us land-based animals.
Our consumption-based economy is taking a profound toll on the systems that sustain our life on Earth. In my work I seek out the manifestations of this dynamic and create pictures. My goal is to produce beautiful images that stimulate an aesthetic response and a curiosity about the circumstances – hopefully bringing about behavioral change.
Even though there is a clear political aspect to this work, I consider myself first and foremost an artist, someone who works in a given medium to convey a certain message, and hopefully affect change in the process.
Many of the images in this exhibit can also be seen in
All images © J Henry Fair 2011