Photographing the Invisible
Marcellus Shale Documentary Project is a collaborative effort by photographers to document the effects of fracking throughout Pennsylvania. Its director considers it a modern-day equivalent to the 1935-1944 Farm Security Administration mission that sent photographers across the United States to document the challenges of rural poverty.
A profile by the New York Times though gets to a singular difficulty: “The problem facing [the] photographers… is that what they wish to describe cannot be seen — an invisible gas buried deep underground.”
Solution? Focus on people, places and processes. Via the Times:
The group’s photographs depict a heavy industrial process scattered across a rural landscape: amid miles of lush green forest or farmland, suddenly there is a shaved patch. Atop the clearing is a battery of drilling equipment: a tall derrick, bright klieg lights and lined troughs full of chemical wastewater. In some photographs, a long, steel pipeline snakes through the frame. In others, the flare from a drill rig lights the night sky. There are pictures of people, too: farmers who leased their land for drilling, homeowners with enough methane in their groundwater to light a tap on fire; and here and there, an industry employee.
Image: A natural gas pipeline under construction in Franklin Township, by Noah Addis, via the New York Times.