Sunday, April 18, 2010

Montcoal Mine Disaster

Before photos, a few words:

When news of an explosion in a coal mine in Montcoal, West Virginia broke last Monday afternoon, I sent an email to my editor in New York asking if I could go cover the story. Before I knew it I was cruising down Route 29 toward the coal fields of West Virginia.

I arrived in Montcoal, W. Va. early the next morning to begin an exhausting three days of shooting. Access to the mine itself was incredibly restrictive compared to past mine disasters, like the Sago explosion in 2006, so a lot of the media's focus was on the reaction of the local community. Pretty much every major news organization in the U.S. found its way to Montcoal, so as usual it was great shooting along friends and colleagues like Mark Wilson of Getty Images, Saul Loeb of AFP, and Haraz Ghanbari of the Associated Press. Also great to meet new friends like Andrew Spear, and Garrett Hubbard.

I learned a lot about myself, my shooting, and more importantly about the mining community in West Virginia. Mining is a way of life and a generational tradition for many West Virginians. Here are my images (all transmitted from the Dairy Queen in Whitesville)

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Jo Ann Kuhn held a candle during a vigil in Whitesville, W. Va.for the coal miners who perished in the blast at the Upper Big Branch Coal mine in Montcoal, W. Va. Wednesday, April 7, 2010. "We are all miners," Kuhn said.(Luke Sharrett/The New York Times)



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Participants remained on the Whitesville Junior High School baseball diamond after a candle light vigil for the coal miners who perished in the blast at the Upper Big Branch Coal mine in Montcoal, W. Va., Wednesday, April 7, 2010. (Luke Sharrett/The New York Times)

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Members of the mining community from Whitesville and other mining towns file past the Valley Funeral Home in downtown Whitesville, W.Va. after a candle light vigil for the coal miners who perished in the blast at the Upper Big Branch Coal mine in Montcoal, W. Va., Wednesday, April 7, 2010. (Luke Sharrett/The New York Times)

Below are a couple diptychs from a few multimedia profiles on the local mining community.
You can view the project here: The Pull of a Dangerous Job

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Coal Miner's wife Stephanie Pennington.

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Tobie Hilderbrand, pastor of Marsh Fork Worship Center, center, is seen outside his church with Billy Pettry, at left, and 5-year-old Caden Gray, with a sign of support just down the road from the coal mine in which dozens of miners were killed in a blast, Tuesday, April 6, 2010 in Montcoal, West Virginia. Hilderbrand's wife's uncle was killed in the blast. (Luke Sharrett/The New York Times)

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Ed Runyon, a long time resident of Eunice, W. Va. and 40-year veteran of West Virginia coal mines flew his American flag at half staff in honor of the dozens of coal miners who were killed in a blast at a coal mine just down the road from his house, Tuesday, April 6, 2010. (Luke Sharrett/The New York Times)

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Another portrait of Mr. Runyon.

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Local businesses showed their support by posting messages of prayer and support for the affected miners and their families.

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Kay Margocee of Charleston, West Va. prayed alone at the Catholic Church in Whitesville, West Va. following a prayer vigil for the victims of the coal blast at a mine in Montcoal, W. Va., Tuesday, April 6, 2010. Margocee's son is a coal miner, though he was not impacted by Monday's accident. (Luke Sharrett/The New York Times)

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A makeshift memorial for the miners lost in the Upper Big Branch Mine blast.

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An abandoned school in the heart of the West Virginia coal fields.

Thanks for looking!

**All photos copyright Luke Sharrett and The New York Times**

5 comments:

bermanphotos said...

Very nice work Luke, particularly the diptychs.

Daniel

Asa Schultz said...

Very compelling.

Alejandro Benito said...

Love that last frame. Nice work man!

S.A.N.Keller said...

First portrait of Mr. Runyon. Composed. so. well. Great stuff.

Anonymous said...

my brother-in-law so live in that school...