NEW YORK, NY — “Amid the noise on either side of the debate over drilling, members of the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project have been quietly canvassing the Pennsylvania countryside to document the people and places caught up in the state’s gas boom. Brian Cohen, the project’s director, said he liked to think of the group as something like a modern-day Farm Security Administration. Together, the six photographers have been able to do what no one of them could do alone: crisscross the state, photograph dozens of drill rigs that have popped up along highways and in backyards, and talk to farmers, homeowners, drillers, environmental advocates and lawyers, all of whom have a profound stake in the invisible substance buried more than a mile below ground. Ultimately, their aim is to create a visual record of the ‘great shale rush,’ and chronicle the changes that Americans can expect to see as we drill our way into the future.
…Because of its scope, the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project offers an in-depth look at the transformations taking place across rural Pennsylvania, where thousands of wells have been drilled in recent years, and more are planned. To be sure, photographers said, the shale gas boom has provided a jolt to the local economy of struggling towns, and many residents are benefiting — directly or indirectly — from the new income and business. But there are environmental hazards, of course, and residents are also coping with the unexpected side effects of rapid industrialization. Downtown streets are choked with traffic, local services are straining to accommodate thousands of workers who have arrived from out of state, and the influx of drillers has created housing crises in some places. There are rifts between residents with different views on fracking, and tension between locals and drillers, who hail largely from states in the South.
Each of the photographers — Mr. Cohen, Noah Addis, Nina Berman, Scott Goldsmith, Lynn Johnson and Martha Rial — brings a distinct style and sensibility to the issue of natural gas drilling. Many of Mr. Cohen’s photographs, for example, are panoramic landscapes in which the drill rigs tend to be small. Their diminutive size is paradoxical, of course, given the immensity of the work they do, and their potential impact on American energy, the economy and the surrounding ecosystem.”
— Jesse Newman, New York Times