In its first phase, the Marcellus Shale Documentary Project documented the social, environmental and economic effects of unconventional natural gas (methane) extraction (commonly known as "fracking") within the borders of Pennsylvania. Photographers Noah Addis, Nina Berman, Brian Cohen, Lynn Johnson, Scott Goldsmith and Martha Rial, designer Brett Yasko and curator Laura Domencic collaborated for over a year to produce a body of work that opened as an exhibit in Pittsburgh in 2012, and which traveled until the spring of 2016. The project also published a book, available at the shop at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. This first phase of the MSDP has been featured in the New York Times, and on wired.com, amongst others. The physical exhibit was visited by over 25,000 people during its travels, and was designated one of the top ten exhibits of 2012 by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
MSDP has been generously supported by The Pittsburgh Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, The William Penn Foundation, The Sprout Fund, the Donald and Sylvia Robinson Foundation, and by a number of private donors including Josh Whetzel, Nancy Bernstein, and Cathy Raphael.
The pictures here represent a synthesis of the work, organized by photographer.
Brian Cohen spent most of his time in South-Western Pennsylvania, in Butler County and the Laurel Highlands. He made landscapes that attempt to describe how the arrival of a major industrial process looks in rural Pennsylvania; and he followed stories both of people who have leased their property to a gas company, and of people who lived close by drilling activity.
Lynn Johnson's work casts a wide net, looking at people working in the gas industry, people opposed to drilling activity, people who have leased and who have been adversely affected by drilling. She covered ground across the state, from Butler County in the west, to in the northeast.
Activist Wendy Lynne Lee talks to Riverdale residentChevelle Eck through a chain-link fence constructedshortly after activists were led off the property. Riverdale trailer park residents were evicted to clear theway for a water extraction plant that will supply 3 million or more gallons of water a day to Range Resourcesdrilling operations in the area. © Lynn Johnson/MSDP 2012
Barbara Clifford's family has lived on this farm for four generations. Now it is threatened by the industrialization of the entire area. Drilling rigs and compressor stations dot the landscape here in Montrose, PA threatening the family's dream of an organic farm and idyllic rural lifestyle. © Lynn Johnson/MSDP 2012
Ray Kemble no longer trusts anyone. He lives in Dimock, PA- ground zero in the fracking fight. He believes that Cabot drilling operations fouled the water of many of the residents here several years ago. Many must still use water from water buffalos and not the once-clean underground source. © Lynn Johnson/MSDP 2012
Kim McEvoy shows Carrie Hahn the contaminated water that the DEP has proclaimed "safe" to drink after Rex Energy began gas exploration in their area outside Evans City. Both women became activists out of frustration and anger when, they felt, both local and state authorities turned their back ion their plight. © Lynn Johnson/MSDP 2012
McEvoy and her daughter stand in the brown spot that used to hold their water buffalo, the only source of safe drinking water for the family. The container, originally provided by Rex Energy, was taken away when their water was deemed "safe", though it was still brown and smelled like rotten eggs as it flowed from the kitchen faucet. © Lynn Johnson/MSDP 2012
Betty Whyte stands in her now empty mobile home in Riverdale Trailer Park. The land underneath was sold to Aqua America as the site for a water extraction plant. Residents, many of whom were elderly and living on restricted budgets, were forced to move suddenly and with only $1,200 to $2,500 in compensation. Betty and her husband, Bill, have been married for fifty-one years. This was their home for much of that time. © Lynn Johnson/MSDP 2012
These IPhone images are "impressions" gathered in all corners of Pennsylvania - from the northeast Susquehanna watershed to the north of Pittsburgh. Dimock, Evans City, Benton, Jersey Shore, Milton, Toanda, Moshannon State Forest, Tunkhannock. These are only a few of the places in our state where homes, lands, and lives are deeply affected by the shale gas "boom". Photographs © Lynn Johnson/MSDP 2012
Nina Berman focused on the tensions caused by the rapid rise of gas drilling in the northeast of the state, and the struggles of residents to cope with the changes it has brought.
Dr. Stephen Cleghorn declares his farm forever frack free in a memorial tribute to his wife Lucinda Hart Gonzalez who died of breast cancer. Environmental activists from across the region attended to honor Lucinda and participate in the release of her ashes. Reynoldsville, Jefferson County, 2012. © Nina Berman/MSDP 2012
Tamara Horn's son, Aidan, showing the rashes on his face that his parents say are a result of drinking and using contaminated water. The family and several others on Carter Road in Dimock claim that they had their well water contaminated, allegedly by nearby gas-drilling activities of Cabot Oil and Gas. Dimock, Susquehanna County, 2012. © Nina Berman/MSDP 2012
Jason Lamphere looks out over his property. He and his family have been without well water since 2010 after methane migrated into their system. A garden plot behind him lays unplanted since he lacks clean water to irrigate it. He believes nearby gas drilling and fracking caused the problem. Monroeton, Bradford County, 2011. © Nina Berman/MSDP 2011
Jude Stiles comforts her daughter Angelina Fiorentino who collapsed in a seizure outside her trailer. Angelina, Jude, and Jude's husband, Carl Stiles all became sick from contaminated drinking water in their Sugar Run home and were forced to flee under doctor's orders. Carl was diagnosed with cancer and other ailments, Jude has skin problems and Angelina suffers from chronic seizures and blood poisoning. She can no longer work. In despair, Carl committed suicide, no longer able to handle the daily headaches and constant abdominal pain. The family is suing Chesapeake Energy, claiming they are victims of a 4-mile toxic cluster created by gas drilling that also affected homes in Wyalusing. Fayetteville, Franklin County, 2012. © Nina Berman/MSDP 2012
Nick DeRemer, a kayak instructor, shows where methane has been bubbling in the Susquehanna River along Sugar Run. He attributes it to gas drilling and wants to leave his home state because of the shale exploration. Several homes in Sugar Run and nearby Wyalusing have seen methane migrate into drinking water wells. Sugar Run, Bradford County, 2011. © Nina Berman/MSDP 2011
Matt Walker with the Clean Air Council, and Ralph Kisburg of the Responsible Drilling Alliance visit the one-room home of organic farmers Adron and Mary Delarosa to alert them to a meeting about a compressor station planned near their home. The station, and the four wells already mapped within 1 mile of their home, made them fear for their daughter's health and the integrity of their organic crops. As a result, they left the property and the state in early 2012. Springville, Susquehanna County, 2012. © Nina Berman/MSDP 2012
Cassie Spencer standing in her house which has lost 80 percent of its value after her well water went bad and she was forced to use a water buffalo and bottled water. Spencer and two other families won a lawsuit against Chesapeake claiming gas-drilling activities contaminated their well water. Chesapeake denied the charge but paid the families $1.6 million. Wyalusing, Bradford County 2011. © Nina Berman/MSDP 2011
A supporter of natural gas drilling who lives in New York, traveled to Pennsylvania to promote gas drilling and shout at anti-fracking residents wholost their well water as a result of contamination from gas drilling. The frackingissue has split residents of Carter Road into two opposing camps. © Nina Berman/MSDP 2012
Noah Addis' large format photographs describe in extraordinary detail the faces and landscapes of the gas fields.
Carol Jean “Jeannie” Moton poses for a portrait at her home in Avella, PA on 04/29/2012. Moton says she has had health problems including skin lesions and rashes, hot flashes, and bone pain since the first Marcellus Shale well was drilled near her home in 2006. She says several of her neighbors, including her mother, have become ill. She suspects that contaminated water contributed tothe recent death of her father, as well as that of her own and her neighbor’sdogs. “This is not a safe practice,” she says. “I’ve been through hell.” © Noah Addis/MSDP 2012
Skylar Sowatskey, aged three, poses for a portrait near her home inConnoquenessing Township, PA on 04/30/2012. Her mother claims that their water was contaminated after several Marcellus Shale gas wells were drilled inthe area between 2010 and 2011. The family recently moved from their home, where they had lived for sixteen years. © Noah Addis/MSDP 2012
Fred McIntyre poses for a portrait at his home in Connoquenessing Township, PA on 04/30/2012. McIntyre, who has lived in his home for twenty years, claimsthat his water turned purple and foamy after several Marcellus Shale gas wells were drilled in the area in January of 2011. He and his family now drink only bottled water. © Noah Addis/MSDP 2012
Janet McIntyre poses for a portrait at her home in Connoquenessing Township, PA on 04/30/2012. McIntyre, who has lived in her home for 20 years, claims that her water turned purple and foamy after several Marcellus Shale gas wells were drilled in the area in January of 2011. She and her family now drink only bottled water. © Noah Addis/MSDP 2011