Industrial pollution has been a huge problem for many countries and is one of the primary sources for environmental contamination. Photographer J. Henry Fair has found a new way to bring attention to the severity of toxic waste by taking beautiful, yet disturbing, abstract aerial photos of industrial pollution all over the world.
“My concern with the environmental issues that face us has grown over the years, and I tried to combine these fascinations and make compelling images that would speak to people about these issues,” Fair told Business Insider.
He uses small planes such as the Cessna 172 and 182, which have high wings and openings that allow him to get the photograph he wants. Many of his flights have been donated flight services by Southwings, Lighthawk, and Neuse Riverkeeper. Fair has been working on this series for a decade and has turned it into a book entitled “Industrial Scars: The Hidden Costs of Consumption.” Ahead, see haunting aerial photos of toxic waste.
He has travelled to many countries where this is a problem, such as the United States, Canada, and Germany.
'My process begins with a constant study of issues, speaking constantly to experts at major environmental groups, and people 'on the ground' who are being directly affected by these industries,' Fair explained.
Pictured below is a coal ash dump in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. Coal ash is the waste left over after coal is burned to generate power. It contains strong amounts of hazardous heavy metals, such as mercury, arsenic, and chromium.
Aluminium is a major problem in industrial pollution. The Louisiana aluminium refining plant pictured below produces aluminium oxide. At this plant, raw bauxite is dissolved in caustic soda, filtered, then cooked in a rotary kiln, which ends up about four parts red mud waste to one part finished product.
This facility in Louisiana, pictured below, produces phosphate fertilisers and ammonia. It also stores and transfers phosphate fertilisers, sulfuric acid, phosphoric acid, ammonia, and molten sulphur. Due to the form of ammonia and chlorine it releases in the air, it produces one of the highest volumes of toxic releases in the US.
All coal must be washed with water and processed with a wide range of chemicals before it is used. This creates slurry -- a semiliquid mixture, typically made up of fine particles of manure, cement, or coal suspended in water. Here, slurry leaks into the water.
Below is a flat-topped pile of accumulated phosphogypsum. The waste itself is gypsum, sulphuric acid, and an assortment of heavy metals such as Uranium and Radium. Small radioactive particles from the impoundments can become airborne as wind-blown dust, which could be harmful to the people and animals in the surrounding area.
Although Fair has to fly to get these incredible shots, he is aware of the impact aeroplanes have on the environment, and tries to minimise flying as much as he can.
Fair used a variety of cameras including Canon, Leica, and Sony cameras for this series. To get the abstract look, he used a telephoto lenses. He also used a gyroscopic stabilizer to help with being in a plane thousands of feet in the air.
'Once the pictures are captured, there is a long process of winnowing out those that are really compelling images,' Fair said. 'Then comes the 'darkroom' phase, in which the density levels and colour balances are set and areas are lightened or darkened to maximise the impact of the given image.'
'I want people to look at this series and realise that we are all part of the problem,' Fair said. 'What we call 'the environment' is actually a series of complex natural systems that provide us with a tremendous variety of free services: clean air, clean water, etc. These 'public assets' are taken for granted, precisely because we don't pay for them. The answers are there, and really not as complicated as they are often presented.'
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