Front Porch Blog

Bringing Artistic Perspective to Environmental Disaster

I was at a reception in Washington D.C. last month and photographer J Henry Fair had his images of coal ash ponds on display. They were aerial shots that were so exotic and colorful that I almost wanted to hang one up in my living room. I was afraid of how I viewed the photographs, until my coworker turned and whispered to me, “These images are almost too pretty.” OK good, I thought, I wasn’t going crazy.

How is it that we can view photographs taken of environmental disasters as so artistically striking? Can we separate the visually intriguing aspect of a photographer’s eye from the depression of truth represented in an image?

Capturing a shot that brings in this artistic perspective is what Appalachian Voices is asking photographers to do for the 8th annual Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition. Again this year we will be sponsoring the “Our Ecological Footprint” category. Pictures submitted to this category should incorporate elements of the human impact on our surroundings in Appalachia.

Last year’s notable images for the category include: a black and white image of a playground at the entrance of an abandoned mine in Wainwright, Kentucky, a fly fisherman in the polluted Doe River in Elizabethtown, Tennessee where trout can no longer exist as heavy industry has left the river too polluted and oxygen deficient, and the winning image of the coal ash sludge disaster in Tennessee.

There is an element of beauty that one can find in even some of the most egregious assaults on the environment. These photographs then become powerful vehicles in which to educate the public about the human-made disasters happening all around us.

To learn more about the competition, visit: Photography Competition





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