Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
January 8, 2020

Mitch Epstein’s Pipeline Activist

Photo: Mitch Epstein, demonstration by activist and Mennonite Ashton Clatterbuck, a leader of the Sunrise Movement. Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

Mitch Epstein’s portrait does some relentless storytelling. It was taken in 2018 but was only published in The New Yorker late last year. (I recommend you check out their photo story on Epstein’s book, American Power. In part, his project uses trees to highlight the corporate abuse of the environment.) ⠀

Today, the Trump administration proposed new laws to erode environmental review of all new pipelines and power plants. With the goal of total elimination of the process, this photo speaks to a last line of defense. Specifically, Mennonite activist Ashton Clatterbuck, a leader of the Sunrise Movement, embodies his intention to fight for nature and not let go. Co-opting the artery itself, you could say that Ashton’s gesture–against Williams Company’s Atlantic Sunrise natural gas pipeline in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania–is “appropriately fitting.”

It’s also a throwback to the radical environmentalist organization, Earth First!, especially the tree-sitters and tree spikers in the mid-eighties who used their bodies to frustrate logging companies in the Pacific Northwest. Is it too clichéd to say, what goes around comes around?

-Michael Shaw

(Photo: Mitch Epstein via @newyorkermag)

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