I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and later lived in California and New Mexico where I worked as an aerospace engineer. I eventually returned to rural Pennsylvania where I am working on documentary projects involving the changes in rural life...
Focus:Photographer, Photojournalist, Fine Art, Environment, History, Photography, Art
Skills:Photo Assisting, Historical Processing, Black & White Printing, Color Printing
Eight-year-old Hailey's dad is a coal miner. She is dropped off by her school bus each afternoon at the dirt road, blackened by coal dust, which leads to the mine. Sitting in her dad's truck, surrounded by suspended cables, loaders, trucks, and piles of coal, she quietly works on her schoolwork until he returns to the surface from underground and they go home.
Buck is co-owner with his father of a mine which employs five people. The old mine had been worked for 30 years and the coal seam had run out so they had moved equipment a quarter mile away and dug exploratory trenches.
90-year-old retired miner who has a small museum of mining memorabilia in his garage, holding a 45-year-old photograph showing himself and others attempting to rescue trapped miners after an underground cave-in. His brother died in that accident.
Smoke Break, old Little Buck Mine, 2012 (mine is now closed and decommissioned)
Coal miner Bob Shingara taking a smoke break during the closing and decommissioning of the old Little Buck Mine. This building was soon torn down, and the miners hauled their huge equipment away to a new location. His family has been mining for three generations and most of his uncles, brothers and nephews are miners.
Gateway to the Coal Region on a billboard guarding the dying town of Shamokin, Pennsylvania. Seventy percent of the area's high school students qualify for free lunches. Since 1930 the town's population has dropped by half, as the anthracite mines and associated businesses have closed.
Justin, a miner in his mid twenties A core of anthracite miners work in mines owned by their families. Others move from mine to mine as employment conditions change. There are fewer than a dozen independent, family-owned anthracite mines left in Pennsylvania, down from 140 in 1985. Most employ fewer than 6 people.
Underground, Harris Mine, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania Anthracite is mined largely by hand using the same 19th century techniques as generations before. The coal seams are narrow and steep which prevents use of large equipment. Unlike the large bituminous mines which have hundreds of people working below the anthracite mines have only a handful.
Two young sons of a coal miner explore near the closed tunnel of an abandoned coal mine. 'Yellow boy' is the nickname of the acidic water's vivid color, which is the result of acid mine runoff mixing with pyrite and other minerals. Yellow boy is semi-solid and smothers plant and animal life in the creeks. Some companies are trying to use this as a commercial paint pigment and dye.
The section of Highway 61 which leads to the town is closed now and parts have been destroyed by the heat of the coal fire underneath. Although it is considered very dangerous the road draws visitors and thrill seeekers
Coal mining was an alien world when I started photographing the tiny ramshackle mines near my Pennsylvania hometown. It took many friend-of-a-friend meetings and trips out to meet mine crews to gain entry to this close-knit society. What I assumed were tough jobs of economic necessity revealed themselves as an intricate brotherhood going back generations, and deeply woven into the community. This has become an ongoing project for me as I document an industry which has become controversial and the people whose ties to it go beyond a paycheck.
Hard Coal: the bootleg mines of Pennsylvania
Not many anthracite mines are left in Pennsylvania, fewer than a dozen, and I am documenting their world and the changing landscape, both physical and emotional, left behind as the mining world changes. These are not the big bituminous coal mines run by corporations but small, family-owned bootleg mines, scraping by with an average of four people working in each.
Even though the coal country starts within 5 miles of the farm where I live there is no sign of it when I look out at the fields and woods around me, and I knew no miners personally. It took many ‘friend of a friend’ meetings and trips out to suspicious mine crews before the miners became comfortable with me and I with them. This has become an ongoing project for me as I document an industry which has become controversial and the people whose ties to it go beyond a paycheck.
It’s become an us-against-them philosophical battle not only for the miners but also for their families and the residents of the struggling towns. I'd assumed that mining jobs were last resort choices in a depressed economy. Instead I found most are doing this not out of lack of other options, but out of love for mining itself. For some going underground is a literal escape from the stressful world. It didn't take long to realize how deeply entrenched in the community mining is, and the honor accorded to those men who do it. That respect is a necessity to them. It gives reason and value to the risks they take. They’ve been around mines since babyhood. Almost every man they respect is a miner.
Coal miners played a critical role in the election of Donald Trump. Trotted out by the campaign as an example of the hard-working man suffering under liberal regulations, enough voters rallied around the idea to swing several states including Pennsylvania. Their lives, their culture, ended up being a microcosm of the divide in this country and emphasized what I’d discovered when I began this project six years ago: anthracite mining is a culture onto it’s own, with values and pride that will resist the changes attempted by outsiders. They don’t want to be retrained for other kinds of work. They want their work to be valued, and it is a losing battle.