This book is an intense artistic exploration of a significant yet little understood and often overlooked region of the United States.
Despite the promise of alternative energy, coal still fuels most of our power plants and steel mills. The story of its extraction, and of the people who live, work, and endure in West Virginia, Southwestern Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, has been a source of fascination bordering on obsession for the photographer Builder Levy. For four decades, he has been witness to a dangerous industry where workers operate heavy machinery in close quarters underground, extracting ever-increasing tonnage of coal. Over the last two decades, at surface mines, Levy has seen powerful explosives tear apart mountain summits, followed by giant draglines that scoop out the exposed veins of coal in massive, destructive, quantities. He has also witnessed strikes and picket lines, desperation and rage, hope and dignity, and the inevitable natural and man-made disasters that are part of the territory.
Builder Levy is part of a grand humanist continuum that includes Lewis Hine, Paul Strand, Walker Evans, to name a few. Intertwining the traditions of fine art, social documentary, and street photography, Appalachia USA is an aesthetically and socially significant book that celebrates the human spirit; it is this spirit that shines through the coal dust in the faces of miners, in mothers struggling to protect their children, and in ravaged but resilient communities. Levy’s photographs and accompanying captions capture the tension, the dignity, and the enduring humanity of this troubled corner of America. Includes sixty-nine spot-varnished tritone photographs on large 9.5 x 12-inch pages.