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The Sinister Beauty of Coal Ash

Sometimes there's beauty in the worst of things. Just look at J. Henry Fair's aerial photographs of coal ash containment sites-which are at...


Sometimes there's beauty in the worst of things. Just look at J. Henry Fair's aerial photographs of coal ash containment sites-which are at once beautiful and startling and sinister. Fair has been shooting broad, bird's eye images of "industrial scars" on the landscape for ages, and has spent a good part of the last decade focusing on coal-burning plants and coal ash waste. This year, when the Obama administration's EPA released a list of 44 coal ash depositories that would cause public harm if they failed (like the one in Kingston, Tennessee back in December 2008), Fair received the news like a bugled call to arms. "I've been dying to shoot the 'EPA 44' since the list was released," says Fair, and so he took to the skies above North and South Carolina in early March and so he took to the skies above North and South Carolina in early March with the help of SouthWings, a conservation organization of pilots who volunteer to fly folks and provide the aerial perspective to sites of environmental importance.The shot above, taken just weeks ago of coal ash containment ponds at the Allen Steam Plant (one of the EPA44) in still snowy Belmont, NC and provided to us by Fair, is but a tease. Some of the shots glow orange and red and frame fractal-like patterns on the mired landscape. GQ has an incredible slideshow of some of Fair's other recent shots, including many from his last flight over the Carolinas, and Fair's Industrial Scars website has even more. He's also documenting the process on OnEarth.Photo: ©2010 J Henry Fair
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