Fractured: the shale play, documents the altered landscape and human consequences of unconventional gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania, USA.
In this time of climate crisis, rather than concentrate on sustainable solutions, energy companies are using the decline in peak oil as incentive to exploit new sources of fossil fuels in places and in ways previously unimaginable. From Ohio to Australia the globe is now mapped according to shale rock deposits and the treasure of natural gas that lies within.
Through an unconventional process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, companies drill down then explode the shale using millions of liters of water laced with toxic chemicals and sand to release the gas to power our world.
Serious environmental hazards have been associated with this type of unconventional gas extraction: Water contamination, livestock death, human health impacts, increased air pollution and VOC emissions from associated infrastructure. Unusual earthquake activity has been reported near drilling and waste injection sites. Methane flared off and released as fugitive emissions is 23 more times potent a greenhouse gas then carbon dioxide burned from coal and oil. Used frack water becomes toxic and in some cases, radioactive waste. Fracking is water dependent requiring 20 millions liters for just one well. With hundreds of thousands of wells planned worldwide, this form of energy extraction appears anything but sustainable yet has been presented as a bridge fuel solution.
In the USA, unconventional gas drilling is occurring in poor rural areas that are in deep economic distress. A land man knocking on the door holding a gas lease promising an easy path to lucrative reward is an irresistible opportunity. The result is an all out gas rush presenting two competing visions: a vision of environmental preservation and a vision of short term economic gain through extraction.
Where these two visions collide is where this work is based.
Industrial activity is visually dramatic. Yet the activity is fraught with toxic impacts, presenting a visual paradox. Acknowledging this paradox, I focus on the strange beckoning and discomforting allure felt when landscapes shift from natural to industrial. Yellow rays, which seem like sunshine, are methane flares; pitch-dark dirt roads unfold into bursts of poisoned light. In this unsettling environment, I include portraits of individuals who are psychically and physically trapped amid this compromised landscape.
Videos: Commissioned by the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts
Gone Baby Gone
Sadof, Karly Domb (Sept. 18, 2017) “: Nina Berman’s ‘Frighteningly Intelligent’ Imagery,”
The Washington Post, In Sight.
Jerolmack, C., Berman, N. (May 1, 2016) “Fracking Communities,” Public Culture (2016)
28 (2(79)): 193-214, Duke University Press
Berman, Nina (June, 2013) “The Gas is Expensive,” Vrij Nederland
Helmore, Edward, Photographs: Berman, Nina (May 22, 2013) “Fratture Nella Terra,” Internazionale
Steingraber, Sandra, Photographs: Nina Berman (October 2012) “The Fracking of Rachel Carson) Orion Magazine (eight page print feature and video)
Lokke, Maria, Photographs: Berman, Nina (Dec. 2, 2011) “Fracking in Pennsylvania,” The New Yorker.
Natural History Museum, "Everyday Climate Change," Verona, Italy, 2018
Annenberg Space for Photography, “Not and Ostrich: And other Images from America’s Library, Los Angeles, USA, 2018
Zimmerli Art Museum, Subjective/Objective: A Century of Social Photography, New Brunswick, NJ, 2017
Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, "Marcellus Shale Documentary Project: An Expanded View, "Pittsburgh, USA, 2016
Institute Francais, "EveryDay Climate Change," Milan, Italy, 2015
Philadelphia Photographic Arts Center, Philadelphia, USA, 2015Fotografia Europea, Reggio Emilia, Italy, 2015
Allegheny College, Marcellus Shale Documentary Project, Meadville, PA, USA, 2014
Palmer Museum of Art, Marcellus Shale Documentary Project, University Park, PA, 2014
Youngstown State University, Marcellus Shale Documentary Project, Youngstown, OH, 2014Photoville, "Fractured: The Shale Play, " Brooklyn, NY 2015 (solo)
Handwerker Gallery, Ithaca College, "Marcellus Shale Documentary Project," Ithaca, NY, 2013
University of the Arts, Sol Mednick Gallery, Marcellus Shale Documentary Project, Philadelphia, PA, 2013
Wheeling Jesuit University, Marcellus Shale Documentary Project, Wheeling, West Virginia, 2013
Center for Photography, Marcellus Shale Documentary Project, Woodstock, NY, 2013
Pittsburgh Filmmakers, Marcellus Shale Documentary Project, Pittsburgh, PA, 2012