“Tim Lamey: Oil in Extraordinary Places”
Opening reception Thursday, 5:30 to 7:00 p.m.
Myriad Mobile 503 7th St. N., Fargo
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A lot of media and artistic response to western North Dakota’s oil boom addresses its social and economic effects or on the built environment that has erupted around it.
Fargo-based photographer Tim Lamey is taking a slightly different approach.
In a new series of photographs, Lamey is documenting 18 sites defined by the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office as “areas of extraordinary interest,” unique scenic areas open to additional rounds of public review during the oil permit review process.
Lamey, who became involved with photography while doing field research as a biologist studying animal life in remote areas of the world, hopes audiences find a new appreciation for the natural life in North Dakota that could become compromised in the face of advancing oil interests.
How has your background as a biologist influenced your approach to this project?
I am drawn to landscapes with little evidence of human activity. Finding these truly wild places is difficult, even in protected locations such as the national parks.
This project acknowledges and illustrates how humans alter the landscape. As a biologist, I consider how human activities impact plant and animal communities at a location in addition to the obvious physical changes to the topography.
Why did you undertake this project?
I was looking for a project that provided opportunities to combine my artistic practice with my concern for the environment. Development in the Bakken is happening at a break-neck pace, and there is little evidence that short-term and long-term impacts of this development on the landscape are being considered.
What was a typical day of shooting in these locations like?
I head into the field well before sunrise to reach a shooting location by first light and stay in the field until after sunset. Each day includes wandering many miles of dusty back roads to visit six to 10 of the locations on the list of extraordinary places.
Much of the time is spent exploring, looking for vantage points for images and gaining an understanding of the proximity and impact of nearby oil development. It is not unusual to cover 200-400 miles during this wandering.
What have you learned by documenting these places?
The extraordinary places are a great introduction to a diversity of landscapes in western North Dakota. Driving between locations, I was also struck by how many spectacular locations exist that are not on the list, such as the east River Road from Amidon to Medora and large expanses of the Little Missouri Grasslands.
Pre- and post-trip research included readings on the geology of the Badlands, history of the 1864 battle at Killdeer Mountain, how the region was instrumental in Teddy Roosevelt’s formation of the U.S. Forest Service and National Parks, and a deeper understanding of the processes used in hydraulic fracturing.
What do you hope observers will take away from this?
A goal of the project is to highlight the special places in western North Dakota, especially for anyone that is unable to visit these places in person. I hope viewers gain a greater appreciation for the landscape in the western part of the state and an awareness that many of these locations are at risk because of the oil boom.
This article is part of a content partnership with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and originally appeared in the Monday, November 17, 2014 issue of the paper.
Images, from top: Tim Lamey, “Pump Jack Near West Twin Butte,” photograph, 2014, courtesy of the artist; Lamey in his downtown Fargo studio, photo by the author; Tim Lamey, “Twisted Trees,” photograph, 2014, courtesy of the artist; Tim Lamey, “Little Missouri River at Wind Canyon,” photograph, 2014, courtesy of the artist.