Once a successful coal-mining town in Eastern Pennsylvania, as a result of a
slow burning underground coal fire that started in 1961 and is still burning today,
Centralia, Pennsylvania is now a ghost town. Although there are clear signs in the area
indicating toxic fumes and dangers of ground collapsing, a handful of families are still
fighting for their right to live in Centralia.
In this project, I roamed the now desolate areas of Centralia where the fire has
passed through, upraising concrete and land, and capturing remnants that lend to show
that Centralia was not always, and still is not completely abandoned. On this journey I
also passed by areas above which the fire is still burning, and witnessed fumes rising
above the ground, read signs, and discovered the ironic fact that a few miles away from
an everlasting coal fire, a dangerous source of energy from the past, there are not only
millions of trees, but a fresh fleet of newly constructed windmills, one of the newest and
cleanest producers of energy of the future.
When deciding that I wanted to explore a gritty subject such as the burning of
coal intertwined with a ghost town, I made the choice to shoot this project using my
35mm camera, and ISO 3200 Ilford Delta black and white film. I thought this was an
important choice so that the highly visible grain in my images would echo the dirty public
perception and reality of coal.
My aim in this project is to try and expose my peers, whom are unlikely aware of
a coal fire started long before they were born and in a rural area of a state other than
their own, to the knowledge that places and situations such as Centralia are not purely
environments limited to the worlds of video games and horror movies, but they are real,
dangerous and possible in the United States, as well as the rest of our world.
This is a venue I have not been able to go back and shoot for a very long time, but one that I’d really like to check out again soon. This area as a whole, middle mountain coal area of Pennsylvania, really interests me.