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About: Madeline Cottingham’s series, Play Grounds, depicts Montrose, Pennsylvania, a rural community on the front lines of the natural gas revolution, and the local residents who have been transformed by the industry. Hydraulic fracturing, the process for extracting natural gas, injects large amounts of water, chemicals, and sand over a mile beneath the earth’s crust to release gas. In Montrose, numerous household water supplies have been contaminated, traditional farmers are concerned for the safety of their products, and families have begun investing in expensive air to water technology as they live with the constant sounds and smells of nearby drilling pads. Currently, there are over 1060 active wells within the surrounding Susquehanna County and an additional 783 are awaiting permits to drill. Within the industry if an area is expected to be profitable it is said to have ‘shale play’. Due to patent laws, much of the chemical makeup of the cocktail used by natural gas companies has never been released to the public. Instead, community members have been left to document contamination on their own, a process that has resulted in gag orders and law suits throughout the community.

The result of over two months of living in Montrose, Play Grounds is comprised of 30 medium format images exploring the landscape and community members Cottingham engaged with on a daily basis. Collectively, the photographs expose the consequences of the nation’s drastic search for energy within its own borders.

Contact: madelinecottingham(at)

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