Roadtrip Post #1: Centrailia, PA

August 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

In mid-June, I head out on a road trip across the country to document America. My initial intention was to “diagnose America”, which I realized gave me an instant negative stance in the way I was going to view things. I realized that would be a too obvious of an approach. So I asked myself, “Why not shoot America the way I shoot everything else?” If you could talk to any person in history, they would say that the time they are living in is the most extraordinary time there has ever been. Who knows what exactly the world will be like in twenty years? Or even ten? No matter how bad they seem, things are better now than they ever have been. Things just seem bad because today you can find out anything that’s going on anywhere in an instant. So, I realized what I needed to do was to document America in a purely objective way instead of trying to “diagnose” it.

I didn’t set out on this trip to bring awareness to the current state of America, but that’s sort of what I ended up doing. I went to a lot of places, many the average American probably haven’t heard of before. I tried to document these places in the most objective way possible. Although I will do a few posts of abandoned towns(this being the first post, another will be about St. Marie, Montana), I didn’t find what I saw as depressing, I was more-so witnessing the slow shedding of America’s skin.

The first place we stopped was Centrailia, Pennsylvania. This was an abandoned coal mining town that was more eerie than you can imagine. We got there before dusk and left before we thought the zombies would crawl out of whatever dregs Centrailia had. Almost every person who lived here left and all of the homes were removed after an out of control, underground mine fire started(and continues to rage today) that created sink holes everywhere and pumped out steam all over. Today, everything is overgrown and partially vandalized. It seemed very post-apocalyptic. Before we were about to leave, I met a man who used to work in the mines back when they were in operation. He had some interesting stories to tell, as did most people I met on the road trip. This wild-eyed fellow was the first person I photographed on the journey and it pretty much set the stage for the rest of the trip.

I’ll have a few more posts coming in the near future about other places we went as well as just the portraits I was able to make. Although I have been to most of the U.S. and have driven across the country multiple times, this was the first trip where photography was the sole reason for traveling. I can’t wait to share the rest of the photographs. Thanks for looking.

www.bengebo.com

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