Nashville-based freelancer Josh Anderson photographed his recent trip inside the TECO coal mines in Hazard, Kentucky.
Shooting in the mines was really difficult. The only light I had was my headlamp. Â The first mile or so into the mine is lit, dimly, but after that it was just pitch black. Â Everyone wears a harness and a respirator attached incase you become unable to breathe in an emergency, like the mine collapsing and becoming filled with dust or being asphyxiated by Methane gas.Â Before entering the mine, I was required to go through about an hour of safety training, which included learning how to properly use respirators. But no matter what kinds of precautions you take, you are still miles underground with dangerous methane gasses in the air. If things go badly, youâ€™re probably just dead. Â It doesnâ€™t seem like there is much of a middle ground.
After I told my brain to shut up, I was able to do my job and appreciate what an opportunity it was to be there, and what a responsibility I had to do a good job. Being a freelance photographer, I always have to come into a situation that I donâ€™t understand entirely, figure out things very quickly, and be honest about what I see.Â The people who work in the mines live their job. Â They spend more time in the mines than they do with their families, making the men they work with their family. They have to rely on each other for their lives. And that kind of trust creates real bonds.Â I have incredible respect for what they do, and the way that they do it.
As for the industry, its one of those things that I wish had not started a long time ago, but now that its here, and its a resource that we depend on, I think the mines are necessary. People have invested a lot of time, energy and family history into coal mining, and it has become a way of life for a lot of people as well as a source of income. Â I wish that we could have found a resource, in the beginning, that was less dangerous to obtain, and doesnâ€™t come at an environmental cost, but that is where we are and I have such respect for the people who are working at the ground level of that industry.
Continue reading and see more images on Josh’s Blog.