les stone

les stone
Catskills, New York, USA
May 18
Les Stone Photo
During the last several decades, critically acclaimed photographer Les Stone has chronicled the human cost of conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Kosovo, Liberia, Cambodia and Haiti, among other war zones. The winner of several World Press Photo Awards and Picture of the Year Awards, Stone vaulted to prominence in 1989 when he photographed the savage, bloody beating of the newly elected Vice President of Panama by thugs of Generalissimo Manuel Noriega. The image revealed the true nature of Noriega's repressive regime. Since then, Stone has covered stories often ignored by the mainstream media, including the deadly legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam, the plight of Iraqi Kurds fleeing the first Gulf War, and the deployment of child-soldiers in Africa. http://www.lesstone.com


Les stone's Links

Editor’s Pick
NOVEMBER 21, 2011 7:15PM

Coal Mining in Appalachia

Rate: 24 Flag

I am currently working on a documentary on coal mining in McDowell  County, West Virginia, deep in the heart of Appalachia. 

McDowell County is one of the poorest and most remote counties in the United States. In fact Welch, the county seat, had at one time the highest concentration of millionaires in the United States. Thousands of immigrants came from all over the world to work in the coalfields. Think of the movie Matewan.

Now Welch is scarcely a shadow of it's former self. Still, today more coal is taken out of this area than at any time in it's history, However, mechanization and non-union mining left the county destitute. In Addition, many of the coal companies have treated the people there with disdain and have taken advantage of the miners and their families. .

Black lung, heart disease, diabetes and drug abuse just a few of the problems that have come with poverty in McDowell County. Black lung disease is on the rise among all the miners after several years of decline. Many of the formerly rich towns in the area are now little more than ghost towns and still the only jobs that pay more than minimum wage are the most dangerous jobs in the world - coal mining. Very few people here have health care insurance or access to medical clinics.

The following images are from the past 3 years of my photodocumentary work here. In the context of the national economy where many of us are currently suffering, this project is a reminder that some of our fellow countrymen have had it much worse for a long time and they should not be forgotten.

In fact, they need to be celebrated as heroes. They are reason the lights are still on in our homes. However that is not to celebrate coal - we need to find alternatives and quickly - but as in all decisions involving policy, you cannot forget that people's lives are deeply affected.

And then there is Mountaintop Mining, but that is another story.

all photos copyright © 2011 by les stone · all rights reserved

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Amazing piece, amazing images. Kudos, Les.
non-union being key, I think.
Excellent work.
Sadly the situation applies here in Australia, where it was hoped we'd learn from the mistakes of others ...
Why am I thinking of The Citadel ... Cronin's novel about lung disease and the miners affected by it. Of Nye Bevan from Wales, his a coal mining family, all the knowledge that comes with that, and partly because of that, the beginning of the NHS in Britain, health care for those who needed it. Or thinking of How Green Was My Valley ... past tense in the hope that life would never be like that again. All of these and more ... come back as I read your words and look at your pictures, think of these miners ... and their families. How little changes ... and how easily so many forget. The past three years in these pictures ... we must not forget. Thank you for reminding us here and making these miners real. So many reasons to think of them.
astounding exemplary work Les, I am profoundly grateful for having found this. I wish you much success in this finding the broad audience it deserves.
The story these photos tell through their chronology is arresting--after several shots of the actual work, riveting in their own right, seeing the first photograph of the miner sitting on the edge of his bed is powerful. I recently read John Berger's response to Susan Sontag's "On Photography" and his hope for the future of the photographic narrative was that photographers would better learn to navigate (or perhaps define) the intersection of public photographs and private photographs. I was trying to envision what that might look like, and you did it here. Thank you.
Thanks. les stone. Great read with graphic Photos.
I am almost afraid to leave the Inn I am in. Serious.
The 'nice' cops ride through the parking lot. Yikes.
Iknow West Virginian activist ref the strip mining.
Thee bath water comes from the faucet gold hued.
When these greedy creeps croak there is doom too.

There will never be a silver lining on the black cloud.
I bought a Cape Breton CD while in Nova Scotia, CA.
I was not aware of the Canadian Mine Disasters. Sad.
CBC was airing Specials that educated the` We People.
At home (I am on thee road now) I have` Information.
I hope I make home. It's almost getting a bit scary too.
I will Listen to the Cape Breton Coal Miner's Daughter.
I'll get back to You if I get home all/awe in one piece too.
The First Nations believed black coal was a bad omen too.
We people need to read the old literature and be wiser too.
No drink Latrobe's Beer. Con Chapman tells readers why too.
If I make through the Catskills I am gonna gulp goat milk too.
I know You must be familiar with Wendell Berry's writings ref:
Coal Mine Strip Mining. I've met him and Thank You very much.
Fools who violate Nature will croak some day. It will be doom day.
I best hope I no get jailed in PA. Cops stop and say hi-you Oho too.
You do.
You kin.
Fools do`
Live as a`
Devil's Tool.
Be silent Too.
No sell Souls.
A bunch are
living lives
of misery
and you
see um
on TV.
O, gaud
I need
a cup
of tea
no sip
Wow, such learned and poetic people making comments here. I'm so honored to be part of this blog! So many metaphors I would only have a shadow of a thought of. Thank you all for being so damned smart.
This is fantastic, Les. I wish that more people were viewing it. I've shared it on FB.
My people come from the coal-mining regions of England, although they wound up moving to the city and joining the factory workers in the early 20th century.
Miners do some of the most dangerous jobs in the world, and we do not do right by them.
coal mining in appalachia has been the ignition point of rebellion before, but mechanization and the monopoly of company towns, indeed, company states, means that nothing will be done for appalachia unless they are bound to other causes in general revolt, for the number of workers is few, and they don't have resources for extended resistance.

by comparison, ows is a children's crusade and likely to be useless because of diffuse goals and failure to generate effective vote direction. i don't think this is the general revolt that will aid appalachia.

these pictures could have been taken in the late 1800's, similar were the tools that helped teddy roosevelt begin the process of improving the position of miners. neither he nor fdr had any lasting impact because neither were revolutionaries, and neither could do anything that could not be undone by congress when the public forgot.
Excellent piece on the destruction of an area very few people have had the opportunity to truly know. I was raised in the coal patch of Pennsylvania, bituminous coal. I watched the clear waters turn as orange as Nehi soda pop. I saw the land stripped of its cover. I also saw some of the most hardworking people I've ever known. Hats off to you, Les.
Awes0me photos. I am amazed that there has not been some kind of safety mask developed to keep the dust out of their lungs. My mother's family hails from Logan County, so this was particularly poignant for me, even though I grew up a thousand miles away.
Thank you for sharing these wonderful photos with us, and for describing your important work. May I suggest two books to you? I recently finished one of these amazing books, and I'm reading the other slowly to savor each page. They are "Blood Passion: The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the American West," by L.A. Times reporter Scott Martelle, and the Bancroft Award-winning "Killing for Coal" by University of Colorado Professor Thomas G. Andrews. The history of coal mining in the United States is one of my passions. My grandfather was a coal miner in La Veta, Colo., near the Ludlow Massacre site, and he died with black lung disease.

For those of you who are not familiar with this chapter of our nation's history, the Ludlow Massacre, and the events leading up to it and after it, remain the bloodiest labor dispute in U.S. history. I will definitely blog about it the week of April 20, the anniversary of the massacre. The labor dispute resonates on so many levels with what is happening in the OWS movement. Its anniversary has been overshadowed in recent years by 4/20 smoke-ins and the Columbine Massacre anniversary.

And I still remember the powerful films "Matewan" and "Salt of the Earth," the landmark 1954 film that recreates a labor strike at the Empire Zinc Mine in New Mexico.

I cannot wait to see your documentary.
I don't know what to say that would show proper respect for the sacrifices these men have made. The photo of the old miner holding his war photo is heartbreaking. Thank you for doing the documentary.
The picture of the the coal train with the houses in the background took me back to Stonega (outside of Big Stone Gap, Va.). The coal companies bought the land a few years ago, so I suppose it no longer exists, but apparently its spirit lives on. My grandfather died of black lung. Thank you for this.
Thanks for the work you are doing at chronicling the unrecognized sacrifices by American coal workers in Appalachia. I have crafted a Christmas theater piece set in eastern KY during the Great Depression. Of course, the family is a coal mining family. www.christmasuptheholler.com
I do hope that the show will shed light on the melancholic history...and bring some healing.
It is shocking that this is still going on, and shocking what we will do to our fellow human beings in return for personal comfort. Do we truly understand what we are doing to them, to our planet and to ourselves?
Years ago I worked at a block plant in Squire in McDowell County. The mines were running good. People made money, had nice things. What killed the mines were the unions and the government. The UMW would strike becasue that wanted the day off.

Now that we have President Obama saying he is going to put them out of business you might as well just turn the lights off now. He is only going to increase the crap that they go through.
Kudos to you for your work. I could say more but this has left me in a reflective state of mind.
Wow. Those photos are not just eloquent about the consequences of a life in mining, but the daily danger still inherent in it. The words are pretty damn eloquent too.
On NPR I often hear a tagline from a coal industry sponsor. The words are "increasingly clean coal." I guess these guys got in just under the wire.

I know the coal marketing people are referring to increasingly clean coal burning plants, which is only marginally true.

But the sacrifices required to mine the coal still go unseen by most. I look forward to learning more of your work.

The photos in the aggregate are beyond powerful.
Truly amazing images. The picture of the company houses is especially striking-so similar to the house I visited 30 years ago, home of a great uncle. My great uncles were coal-miners, and my great-grandfather lost his life in a mine--they lived very differently than their descendants. We are fortunate that you have provided a glimpse of your work here-thank you.
Great article.Many people have no idea how people are living in the Appalachian Area.Its one of the most poorest areas in the US.Many home have no power,no sewer at all.Many people live in boxes or in adaqaute shelter.If you talk to the people one on one,they are still proud on what they have.Many people take things for granted,but visting there will change your whole outlook on life. I live about 200 miles from that area.

Lee Bergeron

These photos are gorgeous and so moving.
a Christmas gift for my father, which one is better? http://www.newflybuy.com ...
there are a lot of products on sale. Which one is better for 48 years old mom? Handbag,glasses or biniki? Please help.
Excellent pictures, ugly portrait of an industry that's a shameful smirch on both the land it defaces and the people it employees.
You're talking about some of my kin. I used to try to explain to younger guys I worked with that people of my grandparent's generation died so these young guys could get overtime pay and safe working conditions, but they simply didn't get it. Now that they've lost it -- their future, that is, and the kid's future, I think some of them are beginning to get it -- but I'm afraid it might be too late.

What's also sad is that so many working class people in coal country seem to have forgotten all that, too. They're willing to shorten their lives and sell their souls for a job that's killing them and their kids. And yet, they'll turn around and vote Republican -- not that WV Democrats are a whole lot better.

By the way, don't know if you've seen the documentary about The Whites of WV, but it's a sad, sad tale, too.
I saw yout name as a favorite @ fingerlakeswanderer. I get shy commenting about sex.
I came back to reread.
I finished commuting.
I emailed to a Kentuckian who is a Friend and Neighbor to Wendell Berry. Again. Thanks.
Ig he visits bankers,
government offices`
Wendell Berry carries his toothbrush just incase he is jailed doing sane civic duties. You?
Carry two toothbrushes.
Carry in your front pocket.
Carry a tube in Ya rear pocket.
Make sure the cap is on tight.

We do what we can do.
We redeem our time too.
We actually redeem` Self.

The Earth rapist will`See.
They will give an account.
Life is not to pillage/rape.
Thanks for this, Les, more attention needs to be given to this very subject. The health and other costs these men and their families pay is just too high.
I'll also never forget the first mountaintop removal I saw while growing up back east. As you say, a whole other story.
Excellent pictures....the one with father on oxygen & son black with coal dirt shows how desperate for an decent income West Virginia's are ....This family now knows the dangers in the mines & the danger to their health when you are a coalminer .The world needs to know what a struggle it is for the coalminer . Their bodies are broken and used up way before they should be...
Thanks for this post. I live not in but nearby coal mining activity in Romney, West VA. This post got me remembering the Sago Mine disaster of 2005 long before moving out here. If anyone wants to review that horrendous incidence in which 12 people never came out alive, although it was reported that 12 survived, go to Wikipedia Sago Mine Disaster.
This nation where fear and a lack of trust hardens even the most delicate of souls could benefit handsomely if more people were exposed to this genre of perspective.