Photographer and filmmaker Jacques del Conte was kind enough to share his verbo-visual response to the poems that Michael Leong and Phil Metres read at the FRACKING reading at EXIT ART on February 1st:
In the spring of 2010, Christopher Bateman at Vanity Fair magazine, asked me to come along on a research trip to North East PA. I would make photographs and video while he interviewed litigants and activists for his VF piece on Hydro-Fracking.
I am going to try and relate Michael and Philip’s poems to some of the photographs from the series.
I would like to start with the line from Michael’s poem
“from beneath a bony tongue, I heard the clink of the coin’s Charonic currency.”
To me this line describes well how the Cabot Oil and Gas company took advantage of a very desperate people.
Norma is poor. She lives in this ramshackle home, she has very little. Her son and grandson do not have much of any money either.
Norma was the first one to be blatantly effected by the gas drilling. On New Year's Day, when returning from visiting family, she came home to her water well having exploded because so much methane had built up inside of it.
But Norma did not have recourse, because while her neighbors received hundreds of thousands of dollars for their land, she had sold the mineral rights under her land for a mere $600. But to Norma, $600 is a lot of money.
This image also reminded me of the same line.
This is Ron and Jean Carter. Their daughter was pregnant and living with them, when the water in their home began to reek so badly of gas that they worried for the safety of her unborn baby.
They had numerous tests done, which they had to pay for out of pocket, only to have Cabot deny any help. Ron ended up spending over $7000 on water filtration systems.
Mind you, they live about 1000 feet from a drilling site.
From Michael’s poem:
“I heard a vampiric hand writing out a venomous verticality, I heard crystalline molecules loosening and unlocking the hiss of incessant itineraries”
This section reminded me of a constant battle and struggle, one of those moments in life when everything seems to just get worse every day.
This is Craig and Julie Sautner. Craig works for the local telephone company. The two bought there home as an investment years ago, they put everything into it.
The smell of methane in their water started to become so strong that their daughter had a rash and would pass out from the fumes when taking a shower. Well testers came, and alerted them to what all of their neighbors would eventually learn, that their water supply was filled with methane and other hazardous chemicals.
All of their clothes had been stained, their dishes ruined. They had to buy bottles and bottles of water. Their home has lost all of it’s value. They feel absolutely hopeless.
From the line, again in Michael’s poem:
“a homophonic hymn homing in on its nomadic home”
and from Philip’s poem:
“The body beneath the klieg lights is ethered but breathing”
Their lines reminded me of the sound these sights make. It feels like everywhere you go around Dimock, PA, there is a constant Humm. All of the machinery, trucks, fluorescent lights.
From Philip’s poem:
“In the dream of the body, men in the white mask. The gleaming instruments upon the table”
This line evokes very beautifully the feeling that earth itself is being dissected and mined for organs by these hideous companies.
This also evokes
“The sound of them like mandibles of ants”
For everywhere you go, is a constant business of trucks. Every street and parking lot and field seems to be covered in trucks, scurrying around like busy ants.
The line from Philip’s poem “and the blood, she sees it all now as if through a hole in the sky, beyond the blue ether”
made me think of this photograph, taken from our car. This idyllic farmland with a hint of corruption peaking out from beyond the barn.
And finally “And the water is a river, coursing beneath our feet”
This is a photograph of a pipeline. One of the veins of this beast. They want one of these to run all the way up into Canada now, which I believe is being battled in court right now.
These are the fighters. The Demascus Citizens for repsonsibility. They are the forefront of the battle. Pictured here are Joe Levine, Pat Carullo and Jane Cyphors.
Thanks to Jacques for sharing this response with his stunning photos!