Intersection of Frac Lane and N. Bullock Road in Charleston Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.
Intersection of Frac Lane and N. Bullock Road in Charleston Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania.
Steven Rubin's photographs are featured in "Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone" a book by Dr. Jimmy Guignard.
Steven Rubin’s photographs are featured in “Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone” a book by Dr. Jimmy Guignard.


Artist Statement
Gmeiner Art and Cultural Center
January 3-31, 2016Fractured State is an ongoing photographic essay documenting the people and places affected by the Marcellus Shale gas boom in Pennsylvania. Encompassing multiple counties across the Commonwealth, the project considers a broad range of stakeholders with diverse and frequently divisive experiences and perspectives on gas development that materialize as political, social, economic and physical divisions. The photographs feature those who work in the gas industry and those who work against it, those who benefit from drilling and those who suffer its negative effects, those who advocate for drilling, and those who are deeply troubled by a skewed calculus favoring short-term gain over long-term cost. Within this context always is the land itself, now (as before) voraciously mined by multiple entities for its subterranean wealth.

Traversing both physical landscapes and psychological terrain, the images narrate the conflict of communities and towns caught between highly charged views on the need for jobs, energy independence and rural economic health, and the necessity to actively protect the natural environment from industrial intrusion and degredation. The work stands at this intersection, documenting these opposing polarities while spanning the considerable intermediate areas between them – all the while questioning the either-or choice that they present.

Ultimately, these photographs offer what can only be a partial view of an entangled reality, much of which is not visibly accessible and remains hard to discern and difficult to photograph – hidden underfoot, or behind no-trespassing signs, in farmland not lost to repossession, or afloat in waterways, leached into wells, interred below ground or in gaseous form invisible to the naked eye.
While much remains beyond the camera’s purview, the topic is far too critical to leave out of sight
or closed to public dialogue and oversight. Photographs ask us to look. These photographs invite you to look closely, to notice and think about what’s pictured and what’s not, what’s gained and what’s lost, what came before and what comes next.

At this critical historical juncture, close and careful looking appears all the more essential.

Steven Rubin
Associate Professor of Art / Photography
School of Visual Arts
Penn State University

Living on 7 acres above the Marcellus Shale – an active gas play in Pennsylvania, Jimmy Guignard has witnessed the gradual transformation of the rural landscape his family calls home into an industrial sacrifice zone.

In his new book Pedaling the Sacrifice Zone: Teaching, Writing, and Living above the Marcellus Shale, the English professor and experienced cyclist grapples with the meaning of place and the power of words.

From the vantage point of a cyclist, Guignard tracks the takeover, pedaling thousands of miles through Tioga and surrounding counties, where he encounters increased truck traffic, crosses pipeline construction on trails and passes a growing number of flaring gas wells.

Before the dust settles, the Marcellus Shale is expected to support as many as 100,000 natural gas wells on more than 20,000 well pads in Pennsylvania.

Juggling his roles as disinterested professor, anxious father and citizen and reluctant activist, Guignard reveals how the rhetoric of industry, politicians and locals reshaped his understanding of teaching and his faith in the force of language.

Guignard is associate professor at Mansfield University, Pennsylvania, where he teaches students to write and ride mountain bikes. He blogs at

Steven Rubin is an Associate Professor of Art in the Photography program at Penn State University. Previously, he worked for more than twenty years as a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer, traveling on assignment in Iraq, Rwanda, Kosovo, Pakistan, Thailand, Chile, Cuba, throughout Central America and across the United States. His photographs have been published in The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Time, Newsweek and The Village Voice, and internationally in Stern, GEO, Focus, L’Express and The London Independent Magazine, among numerous other publications. His work has been exhibited across the United States and in Europe, Asia and Central America. A 2012-13 Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in northeast India, he is also the recipient of the Leica Medal of Excellence, a New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) Fellowship, a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, an Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship and a grant from The Fund for Environmental Journalism. As a Community Fellow with the Open Society Institute (Baltimore), he co-directed the innovative programHealing Images, providing digital cameras, instruction and therapy to survivors of torture. He was also a Media Fellow with the Open Society Institute (New York), which supported his timely photographic investigation of the federal government’s detention and treatment of immigrants — work that has been widely circulated by Amnesty International, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Human Rights First and The American Bar Association. A graduate of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, he obtained his MFA in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego. His current projects document the precarious conditions of Burmese Chin refugees living in Mizoram State, India, and investigate the rise and impact of wind energy in the American heartland and the effects of Marcellus Shale gas development in Pennsylvania. More of his work can be seen at
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