Walton Exhibit Tells Story of Coal Mining

Polluted water constantly drains from flooded mine tunnels, polluting local waterways with a ubiquitous rust-colored sludge. (Photo by Caleb Savage '11)

Caleb Savage ’11 presented his documentary photography exhibit, The Hard Coal Project, in a gallery talk and reception on Thursday, January 9, 2020, in Walton Center. His photos range from dynamic images of strip mines and culm banks that overlook the region, to more personal shots of people who populate the area.

“I wanted to explore the complexity of coal’s historical importance and its’ impact on the earth and the lives of those who extract it,” said Caleb. His project started in Centralia PA, the site of a coal-seam fire that has been burning underground since 1962.

“My paternal ancestors immigrated to Mahanoy City in the 1880s, drawn by the promise of steady jobs mining coal,” Caleb said. “With this project, I hope to document this small section of the grand narrative of American deindustrialization. I want to explore the complexity of coal’s historical importance, its impact on the earth, and the lives of those who extract it.”

“Caleb’s photos show empathy for the coal towns, the mines, and the people there today, all bearing their scars and weariness with a kind of quiet pride,” said Danielle Picard-Sheehan, photography teacher.

Caleb, who has a BFA in photography and imaging from New York University Tisch School of the Arts, is currently enrolled in the Master of Professional Studies program in interactive telecommunications, also at Tisch.

The Hard Coal Project is on display in Walton Center through Thursday, February 6, 2020.

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