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About the Photographer
Thompson Jr., Raymond
Raymond Thompson Jr created this series to reveal a hidden history about the construction of a three-mile-long tunnel in Fayetteville, West Virginia, in the 1930s that exposed the nearly 800 workers—the majority of whom were African American—to pure silica dust and eventually led to their deaths. The images were inspired by the poem George Robinson: Blues from The Book of the Dead by Muriel Rukeyser:
As dark as I am. when I came out at morning after the tunnel at night
with a white man, nobody could have told which man was white.
The dust had covered us both, and the dust was white.
Thompson restages photographs he has found in archives, keeping the identities of his subjects intentionally obscured to highlight the workers who died without recognition. The resulting images convey the dark history of toxic mining practices and issues of environmental racism at large.
Conversely, for his " Imaging/Imagining" series, Thompson portrays Black individuals submerged in nature. The images show quiet contemplation and joy, highlighting the natural world as essential to collective healing.