Artist's Statement

Sarah Christianson

Archival pigment prints, 20x24 inches Since 2012, I have been documenting the legacy of oil booms and busts in my home state of North Dakota. My photographs bear witness to the transformation of its quiet agrarian landscape into an industrialized zone dotted with well sites, criss-crossed by pipelines, illuminated by natural gas flares, contaminated by oil and saltwater spills, and fracked beyond recognition. I use traditional medium- and large-format photographic processes and aerial photography to capture the magnitude and nuances of these changes. Everyone wants a piece of the action, including my family: since the Bakken Boom began, we have been profiting from oil wells drilled on land my great-grandparents homesteaded in 1912. Although many other families are doing the same, I started this project to reconcile our involvement with the hidden costs of this prosperity. More people need to know about these devastating environmental impacts if any meaningful change is to happen. In 1973, North Dakota’s Governor, Art Link, envisioned: “We do not want to halt progress… We simply want to insure the most efficient and environmentally sound method of utilizing our precious resources for the benefit of the broadest number of people possible. And when we are through with that and the landscape is quiet again…let those who follow and repopulate the land be able to say, our grandparents did their job well. The land is as good and in some cases better than before.” Unfortunately, his hope for the future remains a fantasy thus far: our grandparents did not do their job well. I examine the scars from prior boom-and-bust cycles and the new wounds being inflicted upon my home because the status quo must change: something needs to be left for the next generation, not just the next quarter.