Oil in Extraordinary Places

Pump Jack and Bullion ButtePump Jack and Bullion ButteBillings County ND


Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance. ― Theodore Roosevelt


This project explores the impact of oil drilling and extraction in the Bakken region of western North Dakota.  These unique natural beauty of these landscapes are rapidly and irrevocably being changed by oil development. The images capture a landscape of contrasts, where austere splendor gives way to pockets of unabashed lushness. Sweeping vistas, emphasize the natural, physical contradictions of the region. They also put into stark relief the intrusion made by the oil infrastructure (rigs, wells and roads) on an otherwise open swath of land.

The images in the project capture a moment in a landscape where change is constant. The changing seasons bring extremes of heat and cold, rains and spring thaws erode the soft clay hills, and even migrating wildlife affect conditions in the landscape. Geologic processes continue to shape the region, both naturally and unnaturally: those processes resulted in the fossil fuels that have triggered calculated, human-made changes to the landscape.

My motivation stems from a profound appreciation for the natural environment and a strong desire to see it preserved. By documenting the 18 areas of “extraordinary interest” that are listed in North Dakota’s Drilling Permit Review Policy, I hope to illuminate what is at stake in western North Dakota. Fossil fuels are to a large extent a necessary evil. My concern is that the industry has done such a good job of selling us on the importance of fossil fuels that we are not considering the actual costs of the extraction and the long-term implications of fossil fuel use on the environment, culture, health and way of life.