The Landscape of Oil

A couple of weeks ago in my very first blog entry, I introduced a couple of photographs I found while going through old contact sheets. These pictures, which I made about 40 years ago and never printed, brought back a lot of memories. Back then the Arkansas delta was a place in transition, one that was racially divided and poverty-stricken, but, paradoxically, full of hope.

Today I’m posting something new, a short video that in a sense is an interpretation of work that I completed for National Geographic in North Dakota. The story, titled “The New Oil Landscape,” in the March issue of the magazine, focuses on the changes that a nearly unprecedented oil boom brought to this once isolated farming state. North Dakota is now the second largest producer of crude oil in the U. S. at a time when politicians and oilmen continue to advocate for energy independence at all cost.

Why produce a video after your story has been published in a magazine? Because no story is ever wholly complete, final or the last say about anything. Plus, even after you’re home for a while, your mind won’t let go of what you’ve seen and felt. You feel driven to explore other ways of storytelling.

I undertook this piece with the assistance of my son Sam Richards, a video editor. We reworked photographs into film-like sequences before adding a voice-over, music and ambient sound. It took a couple of days to do this, days of father-son spats over what each of us thought worked or didn’t, days of apologetic hugs and laughter, of trial and error, that culminated in the belief we’d accomplished something. 

The short video is titled “The Landscape of Oil.”