Saturday, November 1, 2008

Henry Fair’s Industrial Scars…

I first came across the captivating work of J Henry Fair in Harper’s, which ran several of his large landscape photographs of industrial waste sites. Since then I have acquired two posters from his Industrial Scars exhibitions in Italy, Germany, and Singapore. The oversized color shots depict bauxite waste from an aluminum oxide refinery and waste from the processing of phosphate fertilizer.

Conveyor and bucket-wheel excavator digging in the top layer
of earth and coal (Photograph by J Henry Fair courtesy of

In a description of the photographs, he points out that heavy metals from the production of aluminum are pumped into vast storage areas where it is blown by the wind and covers everything nearby with contaminants, while the production of phosphate fertilizer creates acidic and radioactive waste that leeches into groundwater.

“I see our culture as being addicted to petroleum and the unsustainable consumption of other natural resources, which seems to portend a future of scarcity. My vision is of a different possibility, arrived at through careful husbandry of resources and adjustment of our desires and consumption patterns toward a future of health and plenty,” notes the artist in a statement of purpose.

“Over time, I began to photograph all these things with an eye to making them both beautiful and frightening simultaneously, a seemingly irreconcilable mission, but actually quite achievable given the subject matter,” writes J Henry Fair.

Industrial Scars is being shown in galleries in Berlin, Bochum, Essen, and Stuttgart, and he is currently working on a series of coal mining photographs from the United States and abroad. The New York-based artist has started Soapbox Henry to document his travels.