Photo by Espen Rasmussen / VII. Mullans, West Virginia. 32 miners work in the coal mine of Kevin Calloway (64 years old) in 8 hour shifts. The working conditions for coal miners are tough, as they constantly breathe in dust and have to crawl through the low tunnels; many end up with disabilities. “Working in the coal mine is a lifestyle. If you manage, you earn good money. But unfortunately, a lot of the mines have closed, so there is a huge lack of jobs in the area,” says owner Kevin Calloway. The mine closed down a few months later.
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Espen Rasmussen writes:
During several trips to the former Rust Belt in the United States in 2014 and 2015, I traveled with writer Roy F. Anderson from Chicago to Detroit, Youngstown and Beckley, and ended up in New York City.
This was before Trump was elected president, and it was a project that included on both video documentaries and photography.
The Blue Collar America, the working middle class, had become much poorer, and the few rich ones had become extremely rich. This created anger among many Americans, an anger that Donald Trump benefitted from when he was elected in 2016.
The American Rust Belt is where the car industry created the middle class, where the world’s leading steel was produced, and where “black gold”–coal–enabled families to build their own homes, own cars and go on holidays.
We met firefighters, fast-food industry workers, Vietnam War veterans, gang members, the unemployed, musicians, factory workers, coal miners–people who still believe in the American Dream–and many who had lost hope. These are the people who struggle to keep the American Dream alive: the Middle Class, the unemployed, the new poor and the workers on low or minimum wage.
We investigated what happened to the former middle class, and the consequences of low income, unemployment, drugs and flight from former industrial towns. With video docs, photo essays and text, the project was published in several publications.
After the election of Trump, the media was criticized for not listening to the middle class, not visiting rural parts of the US and the former industrial towns. Now, a new election is coming up. In “Hard.Land”, we listened to these people, and tried to find answers to the question: What happened to the world’s most powerful industrial giant?