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The topography of Butte's mining landscape is monumental. Its silence moves, haunts, encourages, angers, frightens and inspires. Butte affects you. This place, where mountains have been carved away, has been reshaped by human activity. Butte, Montana is an extraordinary example of our dependence and resulting relationship with the land.
The copper found beneath Butte's Hill significantly contributed to the development of our country's communications and electrical systems. It supplied 1/3 of the copper used in the United States and 1/6 of the copper supply to the world. Over 25 billion dollars in minerals have been extracted from a four square mile area inside Butte. It is estimated that there are still 4 billion dollars of ore left beneath the 'Richest Hill on Earth." Individually, we all play a role in this extraction. Minerals and metals are in the cars we drive, the computers we use, the ovens that we cook with, the stairs we climb, the bikes we ride, the lamps that light our homes, the pipes that give us indoor plumbing, doorknobs, ink pens, tables, air conditioners, heating ducts and photographs. Whether we approve of the current extraction processes or not, we contribute to it by our use of these materials in our products. Accepting this, perhaps, can encourage us to take another look at this superfund site.
Butte is magical and authentically raw to me. It is the place where my heart found its home. I went there in search of Evel Knievel one day back in 1996. What I found was a city lost in time. That afternoon on my search for Evel (who I met years later in the Cavalier Lounge in Butte), I found myself sitting on a park bench on Broadway Street. I looked up around me at what seemed like a completely abandoned place... like the lost City of Atlantis. It summoned me a year later. I moved there and explored and photographed Butte for the next decade.
I met some of the most kind, honest and open people of my life. They helped me in ways I can't stop recounting. Though I had been a photographer for awhile, Butte taught me how to see. I photographed inside 47 of the old buildings and driving by them still makes me cry from some depth I have yet to encounter again.
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