Fracking is an advanced mining process requiring pumps to direct enormous pressure to break up underlying rock formations thousands of feet below the ground through the use of water, sand and a toxic mix of chemical, which, in the USA are proprietary formulations. Forced into rock crevices, gas or oil is driven to the surface. The area of well drilled is referred to as a 'pad', either a well-pad or fracking-pad. The fracking process itself is short and after completion, drilling equipment and specialists move on to the next site.
What is left behind - shown in these photos in Pennsylvania – is a variety of ordinary looking equipment, water tanks, pumps and pipes, which collect gas which is piped onward from the site to a gas compression station. Mostly, fracking occurs on farmland, in some cases right beside where cows graze, or close to habitation where in some cases the subterranean water, used by residents, has become poisoned. These households rely on water brought in from standpipes from elsewhere.
In North Dakota, fracking is for oil, in some case using ‘Noddy Donkey’ style pumps, traditional to the industry, but the techniques are mostly the same, although with oil fracking poisonous gases are released into the atmosphere, often burning.
In the USA, regulation is weak; a consequence of the suspension of environmental protection legislation and, according to the Federal Government regulators, little is known about spills or contamination.
Conventional photographs of oil fracking-pads look almost entirely innocuous at first sight. Perhaps this is because their workings are invisible. One doesn’t see what is occurring beneath them or what is released above, except if one is actually present, or when gas releases are set on fire. Gas fracking-pads produce no visible releases at all, although a network of ground-based gas transportation pipes, barely visibly except from the air, extend over a distance to the gas compression sites.
Glover’s pictures began as digital colour photographs, sections of which were then digitally inverted, simulating a negative black and white image. The attempt is to denormalise the taken-for-grantedness of a scene in which everything is open for inspection but nothing can be seen.