CONTAINMENT

(2011)

If you get there before I do
Tell 'em I'm a comin' too
To see the things so wondrous true
At Love's new Model City

               
In 1857, William T. Love designed a plan to create “Model City,” connecting the Niagara River with Lake Ontario. After only completing 2,000 ft of the canal, Love ran out of money and his dream was abandoned. In 1927, the remaining portion of the canal was used as a swimming hole for local residents. In the 1940’s and 50’s it was toxic and chemical waste landfill for Hooker Chemicals.  The canal contained chemical compounds such as lindane, benzene, dioxin and other known carcinogens, many which have been banned since. In 1953, the property was purchased by the Niagara Falls Board of Education for $1 from Hooker, with a stipulation in the deed that stated that Hooker would not be responsible for any harm resulting from building on the canal. This property was then divided in to over 500 small, suburban residential lots. The properties were sold without informing the buyers of what was beneath.  

In 1978, after the snowmelt from a heavy winter, the groundwater forced the chemicals to the surface. Around the same time, many of the residents began to notice a pattern of health problems including an extraordinarily high miscarriage rate, as well as a high rate of cancer and nervous breakdowns.  In March 1978, an article written in the Niagara Gazette provided answers to many residents regarding their health problems. For over 2 years the community organized and fought a political battle to protect their family’s lives. The battle resulted in the evacuation of over 900 families. Today Love Canal is capped and camouflaged by playgrounds, nature walks and “preserves.”

This work is meant to show a place that has been scarred by its history, leaving permanent wounds and markings of what happened. The landscapes accompanied by the portraits of former residents and others who were instrumental in helping the residents free themselves from what was once their home. The images will eventually be accompanied by text that relates sites to specific events that took place during the struggle.  The text intended to be read after initially viewing the photograph to force the viewer to reexamine the image, hopefully changing the way it is interpreted. 

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