- For the last seven years, shale gas developer Cuadrilla Resources has fought to bring hydraulic fracturing to the United Kingdom. Fracking allows oil producers to extract oil and natural gas from shale rock.
- But fracking is controversial, linked to serious environmental issues, and has sparked extensive protests near Preston New Road, the company’s fracking site outside the British town of Blackpool.
- London-based photographer Rhiannon Adam spent four months living, working, and photographing at Preston New Road with the protesters hoping to stop Cuadrilla.
- In October, Cuadrilla finally began fracking operations after years of legal battles. But protesters and activists have continued to fight the company.
Over the last two decades, hydraulic fracking has turned the United States into one of the biggest crude oil producers in the world. But it has also been linked to water contamination and earthquake tremors.
Hydraulic fracking is the practice of drilling and injecting water, sand, and chemicals into the ground to extract oil and gas from shale rock.
For close to a decade, shale gas developer Cuadrilla Resources has been trying to bring fracking to the United Kingdom. But it has faced shutdowns due to earth tremors, protests, and years of legal battles. Last October, Cuadrilla finally got approval to begin fracking at its Preston New Road site, outside the town of Blackpool. Activists have continued to fight the company.
London-based photographer Rhiannon Adam knew she wanted to tell the story of those fighting Cuadrilla, but she wanted to avoid the standard photos of people shouting with picket signs or typical news photos of particular protests.
“The subject is difficult to photograph,” she told British Journal of Photography, which commissioned Adam to photograph Preston New Road. “The only way I believed that the story could be told is through the people.”
Instead, she lived and worked with the protesters – many of whom are from the communities surrounding the site – recording their stories and photographing them for months as she got to know each one.
“The narrative around fracking has deleted the personality of the individual: there are different reasons why people get involved. There are so many individual motivations,” Adam said.
Here are the people that Adam met and photographed:
Fracking is the practice of pumping water, sand, and chemicals into deep underground wells to extract natural gas and oil from shale rock. While the controversial practice is widespread in the US, it is still in its early stages in the UK. Gas company Cuadrilla has been fighting to change that for years at the Preston New Road site outside the town of Blackpool.
Both veteran activists and regular locals have been fighting to stop Cuadrilla for years. Anne Power, an 87-year-old veteran Green Party activist, started protesting against Cuadrilla five years ago and made headlines in 2017 when she was dragged away by police from a protest.
Source: New Statesman
“I did not realise that this was going to change my life so fully,” Power told Adam. At least twice a week, Power drives the hour between her home in Manchester and the Preston New Road site and often ferries protesters back and forth. She said she has protested so relentlessly that she has yet to fully move into her home despite moving there several years ago.
Soil scientist Simon Roscoe Blevins is one of three Preston New Road activists sentenced to more than a year in prison for engaging in a lock-on protest, where protesters lock themselves to a protest site, for nearly 100 hours in July 2017.
Source: BJP Online
John Toothill, the owner of Maple Farm Nursery, located half a mile from the Preston New Road Site, had never been involved in anti-fracking activism before a few years ago. But he was horrified when he learned what fracking was and what it might do to his community, he told Adam. He has now opened part of his farm as a refuge and camp for protesters fighting Cuadrilla.
Maple Farm Camp, as protesters have dubbed it, is one of two permanent protester sites located just steps outside the main gate of Preston New Road. “Most of the people in opposition to the practice are ordinary members of the community,” Toothill told Adam. “The media presents this extreme image of what is happening; the more extreme something is the more newsworthy they believe it to be.”
Maple Farm Camp has become its own community for the protesters. Some stay for months and others only for a few days, as other life obligations like school or work call.
Twenty-somethings Kai and Callum met at Maple Farm Camp over the summer and now take the night shift monitoring Cuadrilla’s activities every Wednesday.
Kai first came in support of her mother, who wanted to protest but is ill and has trouble walking. Callum’s mother, Katerina Lawrie, brought Callum to the camp to protest with her.
Adam felt that staying at the camp for months would help her see the protesters beyond the news headline and create images that show each protester “is a person with a life, and interests, and family.”
Not everyone Adam met was against fracking. Local business owners like hairdresser John Kersey told Adam that fracking was important for local employment and energy, saying, “There isn’t another option.”
Source: BJP Online
For some photos, Adam decided to develop her film with water from Carr Bridge Brook, the closest water source to the Preston New Road site. Adam hoped that the dirty water and resulting corrupted film would represent the water contamination that scientists have often linked to fracking.
The other permanent protester site is called New Hope Resistance Camp. A resident who called himself Jag (Just another guy) told Adam he’d been protesting for 18 months.
Jag, a former soldier, is currently living in a cabin at New Hope and is facing three legal charges related to his protesting, one of which was for a lock-in protest that lasted 41 hours. “It seems strange to me that a corporation’s right to pollute trumps my right for them not to pollute. And that the planet they are choosing to pollute has no rights whatsoever,” Jag told Adam.
Adam’s work is a fascinating depiction of the stories behind those that have decided to protest fracking. The jury is still out on whether the activists will succeed. Cuadrilla’s operations continue to be stopped sporadically due to earth tremors and activists are currently waging lawsuits against the company.
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