Oil Country: A Photographic Study of Resilience in Refinery Towns Along the Texas Gulf Coast
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“Oil Country” is a photographic research project that explores the numerous refinery towns along the Texas Gulf Coast and the communities within them. These towns, which are some of the most heavily polluted places in the country, struggle to deal with the environmental and health impacts associated with living among the refineries. Still, the people within them remain resilient. When looking at statistics on the pollution levels, cancer rates, unemployment rates, etc. of these towns, the full picture is often not realized. These statistics represent real, human lives and the impact these refineries have on them cannot be effectively shown through numbers. That is why this project uses photography as a geographic research tool. Since its inception, photography has always been an important documentation tool for geographers. This project builds upon that foundation and uses photography not only to document, but to tell a story of place. Travelling from town to town with a medium format film camera, I captured a range of images spanning from landscapes to still-lifes to environmental portraits. I talked and interacted with members of the communities seeking to understand the emotions people have regarding the place they call home and incorporated those feelings into the images I captured. These images were then carefully selected down and formatted into a cohesive photobook. The resulting product provides a window into these towns and the reality their people face today. This reality is one that is pertinent to this moment in time and exemplifies humanity’s strength against forces that threaten our existence on this planet.