The construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) garnered national and international attention and consternation as a result of protests from members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and numerous Native and Non-Native supporters. Protesters argued that the pipeline’s crossing over the Missouri River would jeopardize the reservation’s water supply and invoke further damage to sacred sites already wrought by contractors. In spite of ongoing legal challenges, on March 27th, 2017, Energy Transfer Partners completed construction on the four-state, 1,172 mile pipeline and now carries Bakken oil from North Dakota to Illinois.
For individuals such as myself who grew up in a suburban environment, massive infrastructure projects such as the DAPL are abstractions. I benefit from the resources they transport and the costs of such delivery systems are born by others in far away places. As an increasing number of Americans locate to coastal settings, my own experience is shared by many. These landscapes aim to highlight what literally forms a backbone of our national landscape and economy.
Beginning in Fall 2016 I followed the pipeline route in North Dakota and photographed the landscapes it traversed. I wanted to see what construction looked like at the landscape-level and view the range and agricultural landscapes reshaped by its insertion. In Fall 2017 I returned to portions of the route that were closed off by North Dakota and other law enforcement personnel. As such, these images both portray the sites and represent a kind of aftermath of the conflict - social and environmental - of the pipeline on and in the landscape.
Meghan Kirkwood is an Assistant Professor of Art at North Dakota State University where she teaches Photography and Foundations Design courses. She earned a B.F.A. from Rhode Island School of Design in Photography before completing her M.F.A. in Studio Art at Tulane University and PhD at the University of Florida. Kirkwood’s photography has been exhibited throughout the United States, Europe, Mexico, and South Africa. Kirkwood is a native and spirited New Englander, but currently lives in Moorhead, MN. You can view more of her work here.