Photo Essay: Inside The American West’s Mining Boom

Lucas Foglia documents how mining is changing the American West.

Since 2006, San Francisco-based photographer Lucas Foglia has been traveling through the American West to document the mining boom that has overtaken rural areas of states like Wyoming and Montana in a compilation of striking images.


His series, Frontcountry, began when Foglia first visited a close friend who had just moved to Wyoming. “The community felt small and the land felt bigger, harsher, and more remote than anything I had experienced,” he tells Co.Design.

For the next six years, he created more than 60,000 images traveling through communities in Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming. Frontcountry explores the dichotomy between the two main industries in these sparsely populated areas, ranching and mining. Though the two sectors are in many ways incredibly different, they both depend on the same harsh landscape in a way that intrigued Foglia.

His monograph explores the way that the mining industry–in the quest for everything from coal to copper to natural gas–encroaches on the cowboy lifestyle. No stranger to documenting the intimacies of life in rural America, Foglia’s previous project, A Natural Order, followed families who had left cities and suburbs to live off the grid. For Frontcountry, Foglia interviewed friends and friends of friends about their lives and jobs in the communities he visited.

His dramatic photographs juxtapose two different ways of living off the land: herding animals and excavating deposits of metal and oil. In one image, two cowboys attempt to wrangle a skittish horse down a country road set against the backdrop of a lush mountainside. In another, trucks haul earth out of an immense pit mine. At a bar in Eden, Wyoming, beer cans spill out of a mountain of recycling that is almost as tall as the dilapidated building. In another Wyoming town not far away, a brawny man lifts enormous weights at the Jonah Natural Gas Field, one of the country’s key natural gas sources.

The photographs have just been published by Nazraeli Press, and will be on display in upcoming exhibits at New York’s Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, London’s and Denver’s Robischon Gallery.

[H/T: Slate]

About the author

Shaunacy Ferro is a Brooklyn-based writer covering architecture, urban design and the sciences. She's on a lifelong quest for the perfect donut.