Environmental impacts of steelmaking are felt in communities where steel is made and beyond, from dramatic changes in landscapes to smoke-darkened horizons to contaminated ponds.
For photographers and other artists—painters, poets, songwriters—those impacts provide an opportunity to use their creative works to draw public attention to ecological conditions at operating and abandoned mills.
A new study by Knight Center associated faculty member Howard Bossen and director Eric Freedman explores how three American photographers—Masumi Hayashi, John Pfahl and Ruth Dusseault—used their images to raise social consciousness of steel-related environmental problems. It found that despite differences in their photographic techniques, each photographer has created a potent marriage of aesthetics with social commentary and a public agenda through documenting unwelcome and welcome changes in communities affected by steelmaking.
The article, “Making Steel, Making Prosperity, Making Pollution, Making Images: The Environmental Photography of Steel Mills, appears in Visual Communication Quarterly.