November 04, 2022

Boley Library Displays ‘Orphan Wells’ Photo Collection

Megan Kirkwood’s photographs, Orphan Wells of Caddo County, illustrate the aftermath of oil and gas development in the United States.

The photo collection, ‘Orphan Wells of Caddo County, Louisiana’ by photographer Meghan L. E. Kirkwood is being displayed in Boley Law Library through December. Kirkwood’s photography explores the aftermath of oil and gas development in American communities and the devastating environmental impact of these wells on the surrounding areas. In addition to the photo display the library will host an artist discussion on Wednesday, November 16th at 12:10PM in Wood Hall classroom 8. The artist will join the discussion via Zoom.

The series focuses on abandoned or “orphan” wells around Oil City, Louisiana (an area containing large swaths of pine forests, Caddo Lake, and bayou along the Texas-Louisiana border). Her photographs illustrate the range of abandoned wells and how they interface with the surrounding verdant, rural landscape. Some display a characteristic pumpjack beneath tangled vegetation; others contain only a small wellhead visible in a backyard or downtown area.

The relationship between rural communities and resource extraction industries has long been complex. Feelings are not uniform and Kirkwood seeks to honor these contradictions with her work. Many Caddo County residents value their history of oil and gas development and consider it their heritage; others worry about the environmental impact.

Kirkwood’s work has previously been exhibited in solo and group shows at prominent venues throughout the U.S. and internationally and her photographs are currently held in several private and public collections, including the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago. Kirkwood is also an Assistant Professor of Visual Arts at Sam Fox School of Visual Arts and Design at Washington University in St. Louis. She earned a B.F.A. in photography from RISD, an MFA in studio art from Tulane, and a PhD from the University of Florida. Her research explores the impact of landscape imagery on informing and supporting public conversations around land use, infrastructure, and environmental values.

The vision for this exhibit in Boley Law Library was brought to life by Boley Law Library’s Associate Director of Collections and Access, Sarah-Lynda Johnson and the Collections and Access team.