What began in 1968 as a ten-day trip became fourteen years of visiting and photographing in coal mines,miners' homes, and communities in the hills and "hollers" of West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, southwestern Virginia, and western Pennsylvania. I was attracted by a rich cultural heritage that included the rejection of British colonial rule, support of abolitionism, and the collective struggle of coal miners since the late nineteenth century to make life better for themselves, their families, and the American working people.

With the help and encouragement, in 2002, of a commission from the Appalachian College Association, followed by an Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship in 2004, I have begun to revisit the Appalachian coalfields. I have been looking at mountaintop removal mining, slurry impoundments, and other coal industry practices and developments to see how they are affecting the communities in the surrounding valleys and hollows. My primary focus continues to center on the lives of the people and their enduring humanity, but now more than ever on their mountains, whose fate affects them so intrinsically.

Mountaintop removal mining site, southern, West Virginia, 2004. The coal companies are able to get more coal faster and cheaper by blasting off the tops of mountains. The blasted top, called "overburden", full of chunks of rock and pulverized rock (containing dissolvable poisonous heavy metals) is bulldozed over the mountainside into the valley where it is called "valley-fill."
Blasting holes and demolition blasting crew on mountaintop removal mine site, Red Fox Surface Mine, Bluestone Coal Corporation, Keystone, McDowell County, West Virginia, 2004. Each blast-hole is made by a blast-hole drill. The holes may be as deep as 60 feet, are 6 inches in diameter and are spaced about 10 feet apart.
Blasting, Premium Energy/Mingo Logan Surface Mine, Gilbert, Mingo County, November, 2002. About 2500 pounds of ammonium nitrate sprayed with diesel oil was detonated in this mountaintop removal mining blast.
Preparation Plant on Mountaintop Removal Mine Site, southern West Virginia, November 2002. The coal companies are able to get more coal faster and cheaper by blasting off the tops of mountains. The blasted top, called "overburden", full of chunks of rock and pulverized rock (containing dissolvable poisonous heavy metals) is bulldozed over the mountainside into the valley where it is called "valley-fill".
Dakota Mining Co., Cazy, Boone County, May 2004. Coal production in the Appalachian coalfields will probably double in the next twenty years, according to Davitt McAteer (Director of the Appalachian Institute and Coal Impoundment Project for the National Technology Transfer Center, both at Wheeling Jesuit University). Here a new underground mine, not yet in production. is being set up.
Brushy Fork coal impoundment, Marfork Coal Company, Raleigh County, West Virginia, 2004. (Aerial view) There are more than 713 coal refuse impoundments in the United States, most in West Virginia and Kentucky. In 1972 the bulkhead of one such coal waste lake broke, releasing millions of gallons of black, poisonous slurry down Buffalo Creek Hollow, killing 125 people, injuring more than 1,000, and leaving 4,000 homeless.
Clark Branch coal refuse impoundment, Second Sterling Corporation, Keystone, McDowell County, West Virginia, 2004. Sitting above the town of Keystone, this impoundment is permitted to hold more than a billion gallons of coal slurry.
Coal Truck 18 wheeler, Brookside, Harlan Cty, KY 2002. Because they are paid by the the ton of coal delivered, rather than an hourly wage, the truck drivers will often drive as fast as they can, sometimes causing serious accidents.
Horace Robinson's Photo Collection, Dorothy, Boone County, May 2004. All the photographs in Mr. Robinson's collection were taken in Dorothy where he himself was born and lived almost all of his life. Horace is a retired independent coal mine operator.
Floodsided Singlewide, Shadywood Subdivision, Pie, Mingo County, June 13, 2004: Jamie Wolford's single-wide mobile home was flooded and tipped over by the water gushing down the mountainside and overflowing creek during a rainstorm on June 4th. A chain-link fence was ripped out and washed down more than 400 feet from the last home.
Magnolia Gardens, After Flooding, North Matewan, Mingo County, June 13, 2004. Volunteer firemen and Red Cross volunteers helping flooded out people from Magnolia Gardens, a low-income government housing development in North Matewan. There had been heavy rainstorms intermittently over a two-week period in Mingo County. After the last very heavy storm on Saturday afternoon and evening of June 12th, the Magnolia Gardens homes were flooded.
Clear-cut timber on a mountaintop removal mining site, southern West Virginia, 2004.
Volunteer Firemen & Women, Magnolia Gardens, North Matewan, Mingo County, The morning of June 13, 2004. The volunteer fire department was out at Magnolia Gardens through the night of June 12th into the morning of June 13th. Captain Bill Stratton, center, with his wife Cathy and Patty Clark on the right, Cindy Sipple, the fire chief's wife on the left and Jamie Meade sitting on the truck.
Alysa Estep, Litton "Holler," Chattaroy, Mingo County, June 12, 2004. The flood waters had ripped up the creek culvert, ripped out part of the chain-link fence, and flooded the next door neighbor's trailer behind Alysa's grandfather's house on May 30th. Alysa's grandfather, James Gauze talked about the timbering 300 feet up the mountain behind his house and at the top of the holler: "For about a year, they've been hauling out five to six truckloads of logs a day."
James Gauze with his granddaughters Tyshira Joplin (in the chair) and Alysa Estep, and Josh McCoy, the next door neighbor's child, Litton "Holler", Chattaroy, Mingo County, June 12, 2004.
Rutherford "Holler", North Matewan, Mingo County, June 13, 2004. There had been strip-mining on the mountain at the top of the 'holler'. It was after the last of the two weeks of intermittent heavy rainstorms that the creek along the side of the road overflowed and flooded, wrecking a few of the creek bridges.
Curtis Phillips, Jr. and Lowell Blankenship on the Steps, Rutherford "Holler", North Matewan, Mingo County, June 13, 2004. Elizabeth Deskins and her son Thomas Huddle, Jr. sit on the porch.
Family in Garage, Conley "Holler", Belo, Mingo County, June 11, 2004. Henry Ooten, daughter-in law Freda Spence, her children (Henry's grandchildren) Tyler and Rachell Spence sit in the Spence garage. Henry and his wife Allene had just sold their house and temporarily moved into their son's garage until the doublewide mobile home they were going to buy would be ready to be delivered.
Soldiers on Flood Relief Duty, Delbarton, Mingo County, June 11, 2004. The 1092nd Combat Engineer Batallion of the West Virginia Army National Guard had just returned from Iraq where they had been stationed for a year.
Donna Stover and her Daughter Laura Beth Stover, Clear Creek, Boone County, May 2004. The Department of Environmental Protection was holding a permit hearing at the Clear Fork Elementary School about Island Fork Coal Corporation's mountaintop removal mining on the mountain above and in back of Donna Stover's and several other families' homes.
Demonstration Against Massey Energy Corporation, Charleston, West Virginia, May 18, 2004. On the occasion of Massey Energy's annual shareholders' meeting at the Mariott Center, a demonstration was held to protest the corporation's treatment of the environment and the communities being affected by their mountaintop removal mining.
Joan Linville and Maria Gunnoe, Charleston, West Virginia, May 18, 2004. This demonstration was held during the annual shareholders' meeting of Massey Energy Corp at the Mariott Center. On June 17, 2003, the creek bridge to Ms. Gunnoe's home in Bob White, Boone County, .was destroyed by a mudslide and flooding of the creek.
Anti Massey Energy (Coal Co.) demonstration, during Massey's annual Shareholder's meeting, Charleston, WV. 2004.
Pauline Canterberry's Family Photos, Sylvester, Boone County, May 2004. Pauline was born in 1930 in Stanaford #4 camp near Beckley . At age 10 her family moved to Keith, a coal camp outside of Whitesville. At eleven, to be able to buy things for herself, she had a route in Whitesville, selling the Charleston Daily Mail.
Nathan Coleman, in his first grade class on the first day of school, Bartley Elementary School, Bartley, McDowell County, West Virginia, August, 2004. In McDowell County, mountaintop removal mining, timbering, including clear-cutting, and underground mining, which is now seeing a resurgence, are producing a tremendous amount of wealth, but most of that wealth leaves the county, currently one of the poorest in the nation.
Bartley Elementary School, Bartley, McDowell County, West Virginia, August 2004. In June 2005 Bartley Elementary School was closed. Several other county schools have been or will be closed as well.
Americore (now called Lifebridge) workers, Caretta Community Center, Caretta, McDowell County, West Virginia, 2003.
Bartley Mine Disaster Memorial, Bartley, McDowell County, West Virginia, 2004.
oby Moore, Eastern Coal Co., Pike Cty, KY, 1970 Thirty-six years ago,when I made this portrait of a miner on his lunch break, it was my first time inside a mine, and I forgot to ask him for his name. In 2003 when I revisited Chattaroy, Mingo County, where I had lived for two consecutives summers, in 1971 and 1972, I found someone who recognized his old friend, Toby Moore, now deceased, from one of the photographs in my book.
Keeling Miner, Wolf Creek Colliery, Lovely, Martin Cty., KY 1971.
enda Ward, U.S. Steel no. 50 Mine, Pinnacle, Wyoming County, West Virginia, 1982.
Janice Molineau, state mine inspector, Caretta Mine, McDowell County, West Virginia, 2003  Ms. Molineau is the only woman and was the only African American state mine inspector in West Virginia, until a few months ago when a Black man was also hired.  Janice Molineau   worked  as an underground coal miner for nine years before becoming a state underground mine inspector, which she has been for the last fifteen years (as of 2006).
Lucious Thompson and his granddaughters, Destiny Clark and Delena Brooks, Tom Biggs Hollow, McRoberts, Letcher County, Kentucky, 2002. Born on July 21, 1943, in Jenkins, Letcher County, Kentucky, Lucious Thompson worked in the mines for 19 years.
Delisia Clark and Delena Brooks (with Bicycle) Tom Biggs Hollow, McRoberts, Letcher County, KY 2002.
Coal Camp, near Grundy, Buchanon Cty., VA 1970.