Plume, 2009-2010 by Daniel Shea
Plume is a photographic exploration of Southeast Ohio and its unusually dense concentration of coal-fired power plants. The pictures presented in Fraction Magazine are new images, made last month while finishing the project.
Geographically rooted in two towns along The Ohio River, Plume focuses on Racine and Cheshire who sit in close proximity to 4 power plant stations, all within a 15-mile radius. The landscape of these towns presents itself in distinct layers. The subdued palette of the river, with its plodding pace, carries coal and a unique regional sentimentality. Off the banks of the river exist people and sparse economic growth, and above them sprawl small mountains and Appalachian biodiversity. The trees, reaching for the sky, are outpaced by their synthetic allies in upward ambition. These smoke stacks are as ubiquitous landscape accompaniment in contemporary life as any, and in this series they are presented in their social environment, separated from their industrial foundation.
Southeast Ohio resonates a hidden fragility, not just in the industry’s inevitable demise, but in the dejection of its citizens. Like many mono-industrial cultures the resources are being exhausted. Coal exists beyond industrial and historical development as a larger abstract presence that is woven into the cultural fiber of Ohio. Here, the air of restlessness predicts an overwhelming ambivalence towards the coal industry. The citizens and land of Ohio and West Virginia are the source point in a vast grid of energy distribution. This burden of heavy resource usage is a type of political and industrial play, mirrored in other industry-specific rural economies, and constitutes an act of complex resource siphoning. In other words, non-Appalachian citizens are benefactors of not only inexpensive energy access, but of distance from the destructive industry that makes this access possible. This sociopolitical paradigm, as old as industry itself, calls into question our confounding relationship to power.
Daniel Shea is a Chicago, IL based photographer and teacher.
To view more of Daniel's work, please visit his website.