Daniel Shea's photos are more than a metaphor for those living in coal country

27 April 2012
Reading Time
1 minute read

The Appalachia is coal country and photographer and artist, Daniel Shea has surveyed its extraction – a rather god-like mining process called mountaintop removal – through its ecological, industrial, and human implications.

In a saturated daytime the series depicts a place where coal mining is omnipresent in every frame. Distance, which makes mountains look blue also blends the vast cooling towers into the horizon, plumes rise up and merge with clouds and heavy machinery becomes furniture in the landscape. All the while, the people struggle with the reality of their situation.

To Daniel it was these beleaguered people who presented themselves as the "most compelling narrative element, rendering notions of “necessary evils” and “sacrifices” relatively useless political rhetoric."

Removing Mountains captures the destruction – the literal blowing apart of the mountain to access its coal seams – with the aim of making a “social documentary narrative.” Opting for perspectives, literally and socially that allow Daniel to look in and out at the same time, stating: “I’m interested in evaluating the historical importance of landscape depiction and the image’s role in polarising otherwise complex political realities.”


Daniel Shea: Cheshire, Ohio, 2009


Daniel Shea: Old Lock 24 Campgrounds, 2009


Daniel Shea: Big Muskie Dragline, 2010


Daniel Shea: The Ohio River, Middletown, Ohio, 2009


Daniel Shea: Bill Jones Camping On The Ohio, 2009


Daniel Shea: Smoke Stacks, 2009


Daniel Shea: Old Coal Supports, 2010


Daniel Shea: Mountaintop Removal, 2007

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About the Author

Bryony Quinn

Bryony was It’s Nice That’s first ever intern and worked her way up to assistant online editor before moving on to pursue other interests in the summer of 2012.

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