At first glance, Dina Kantor's photos of Treece, Kansas might seem to follow a familiar mold of large format portraits of suburban America--often commentary on homogeneity, alienation, and consumerism. On closer inspection, the content of Kantor's photographs for Treece harks back to Walker Evan's (Let Us Now Praise Famous Men), or more recently to Shelby Lee Adams' photographs of Appalachia. Neither the level of poverty of the Great Depression nor the isolation of the hollers of eastern Kentucky, Treece instead is a former mining town suffering the most modern of calamities--an EPA superfund site in the process of being disappeared. Kantor uses the finely developed skills of a journalist, documentarian, and artist to inform us of the lives, specificity, and texture of the residents of Treece who must now deal with the waste of the 20th century brought upon their doorstep.
Dina Kantor received her MFA from the School of Visual Arts in 2007 and her BA from the University of Minnesota in 1999. She teaches photography at the School of Visual Arts, International Center of Photography, and Adelphi University. Her work is included in the permanent collections of The Jewish Museum, the Portland Art Museum, and the Southeast Museum of Photography. Katnor lives and works in Brooklyn, NY.
Treece, Kansas is a former mining town with a population of around 140. Its last mine closed in the 1970s, leaving a small community of the children and grandchildren of miners.
In recent history, Treece became economically and environmentally devastated. The poverty level was more than twice the national average, and its residents had 60 percent more lead in their bloodstream than the average Kansan. Poor mining practices left the ground unstable and full of sinkholes. Mountains of “chat,” the toxic remnants of the mining, surround the town. The entire town (a designated EPA superfund site) is at the tail end of a government-funded relocation program. Over the past year, Treece’s residents slowly moved away, and the town’s remaining structures are scheduled for demolition. The water tower was sold at auction and even the roads will be torn up.
I’ve been photographing in Treece since the summer of 2010, observing the dramatic changes in both life and landscape. I'm interested in how the town’s sense of community is adapting as they leave their homes. My photographs serve as an archive of the community, a document of its transformation, and an investigation into the environmental and economic impact of past practices on both individuals and the landscape.