Nina Berman

Documentary photographer
fractured: the shale play
Location: New York City
Nationality: American
Biography: Nina Berman is a documentary photographer, author and educator, whose photographs and videos have been exhibited at more than 100 international venues including the Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, the... read on
Public Story
fractured: the shale play
Credits: nina berman
Date of Work: 11/01/10 - 11/01/16
Updated: 08/22/18
Archived as: 

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

The Troublemaker

Selected publications:

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, 2015 

Fotografia 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 UniversityMarcellus Shale Documentary Project, Youngstown, OH, 2014

Photoville,  "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



Also by Nina Berman —


The Black Boys of Dozier

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An autobiography of Miss Wish

By Nina Berman — An autobiography of Miss Wish is a story of a survivor of sex trafficking and child pornography and her..

David Duke

By Nina Berman — In 1990 and 1991,   I photographed David Duke's campaigns for US Senate and Governor of Louisiana...

Triumph of the Shill 2

By Nina Berman — Documentary short 

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By Nina Berman — Complex trading, based on algorithms and proprietary knowledge and communicated through a privileged visual..


By Nina Berman — War is both everywhere and invisible.  It’s there when we shop, when we socialize. We are..

robert taylor

By Nina Berman — The Robert Taylor Homes were the largest public housing project in the USA stretching two miles along..

tea party

By Nina Berman — Tea Party supporters rally on tax day in Washington DC  April 15, 2010


By Nina Berman — Megachurches and Christian evangelicals in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Ohio and Kentucky photographed in..

afghanistan - under taliban

By Nina Berman — Photographs from Afghanistan 1998 in Kabul and 2000 in Kandahar showing life under Taliban rule.

Obama train

By Nina Berman / USA — In 2009, newly elected President Barack Obama traveled by train from Philadelphia to his..
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