Life in the Shadow of Coal

By Rebecca Horne | August 13, 2010 4:19 pm

This photograph was made in a small town in Southeast Ohio, along the Ohio river, called Cheshire. To the left you can see the Gavin Power Plant, a coal-fired plant that provides electricity to Ohio, Appalachia, and the greater Northeast. The coal that is burned at Gavin Power comes in part from mountaintop removal mines in Appalachia. In 2002, shortly after federal health experts confirmed that the blue sulphuric clouds from the plant endangered the residents of the town, the American Electric Power company bought the entire village of Cheshire for $20 million, and the residents of Cheshire agreed to relocate. Photographer Daniel Shea has been working on a long-term project to explore the social and environmental impacts of coal in Southeast Ohio and Appalachia.

About taking this photo, Shea writes: “I had driven by this house repeatedly over the course of a week. Sometimes I would stop and photograph it, but it never felt right. This is a residential street in a very small town, and people take notice of strangers. I received really dirty looks the first time I photographed it, it was noon and the sun and heat were unbearable. Eventually I made it back to the house at 5 AM. At that time you couldn’t see the stacks, so I parked outside, waiting until they were barely visible an hour later. I knew while taking it that it would be “the” picture from Plume. This is a fairly atypical landscape — I assume that the house belongs to a manager at the power plant as there isn’t a lot of money in the region; it’s mostly rural poverty.”

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Life and Death
  • Rhacodactylus

    This is the “before” picture, now you just need one covered in suit and you are set.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Life in the Shadow of Coal | Visual Science | Discover Magazine --

  • ChH

    It is amazing that in this day and age a plant like that is still allowed to emit such enormous plumes of hydroxilic acid aerosol.

  • coryy

    Shea needs to go up to Timberlake, Oh. A small, beautiful, homey, 3-mile wide suburb east of cleveland, with pleasant tree-lined streets on the beach of Lake Erie. Or what should be the beach. Because all the backyards, between the houses and the water, back onto a FIELD of coal, train tracks, and smokestacks that have been breaking EPA emissions laws since the ’70’s. Any given day, anywhere in Cleveland, you can look east and see the hazy brown smudge tracking across the sky.
    I’ve lived on the east side all my life, protested that power plant all my life…but Timberlake, with it’s cute beach houses and marina, turns my stomach.

  • shawn smith

    Another tragedy in the generating. I guess we won’t stop unless we have destroyed everything.


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About Rebecca Horne

Rebecca Horne ( is an artist, multi-platform freelance writer, and award-winning photography director. She launched Visual Science for in March 2010. She also writes about science and photography for The WallStreet Journal. You can reach her at


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