My oilfield-related photographic art focuses on the hard work, grit and raw beauty of the people and equipment of the industry, while recognizing its integral place in our society. I like for my work to evoke fond memories or just take you to a special place. I grew up in West Texas just North of Odessa in the little community of Gardendale. We moved there in 1975 and bused to nearby Goldsmith for elementary and Odessa for high-school. Although I never had to work in the oilfield, I had friends whose families worked it, and remember those long rides after school sports through West Odessa then home, seeing the desolate landscape with scattered pump-jacks and other oilfield equipment working late in the day.
Soon after leaving high-tech & starting a new career in the photographic Arts, guess I remembered those scenes, and wanted to capture some of what I saw. Intending to do an ‘Old Energy – New Energy’ themed shoot, the rusty pump-jacks and landscape seemed to have more spirit than the massive, sleek wind-turbines. With Dad driving and Mom and my wife Marcela in back, we set out one afternoon on a small tour that took us over to Goldsmith following the same stretch of Hwy 158 I used to ride on the ‘yellow-hound’ to 5th & 6th grade.
This yielded my first oilfield shot ‘Pump-jack in the Field’ (yes some names of my artwork are more ‘original than others’ ;). I jumped out and hurriedly readied my camera & tripod to catch light gleaming off the head (although I barely missed the glow, was able to bring it back in post production;). From there we went through Kermit, had nice dinner at a Mexican Restaurant in Monahans and ended driving towards Crane to a place Dad used to pass by when traveling. It was on an old oilfield road where I could capture pumpacks, sand, a little grass and nice West-Texas sunset.
After some initial doubt of wether we were going to reach this place Dad was talking about, we finally pulled into neat little area surrounded by sand dunes and scattered pump-jacks. My first impulse may have been to find a piece of cardboard and take Marcela sliding down a hill, but started scouting the area while there was still light. Dad pointed out some interesting designs the wind and grass were making on the dunes then headed off alone. There was a pump-jack that caught my eye, so I walked around to identify the perfect place to catch the light and incorporate the dunes and grass and a few foot prints off to the side.
So there I am, the light is perfect, composition great, everything in frame. Then as I am about to press the shutter, what’s that in the distance moving? It’s Dad getting in the way of my shot! I look up and (perhaps frustrated) yell ‘Dad!’ – he stops and yells back ‘What?!’. I pause, look back in the viewfinder, then yell back ‘Don’t Move!’ The first time I brought this print out at a show, I overheard three women discussing ‘how profound the man was and what he represented’. Another show a man stood and watched in tears for a long-long time later explaining to me his father worked in the oilfield and to him, this represented and brought back emotions of the relations between his father, him and the oilfield.
Experiences like this (from others and myself) drove home that regardless of the beauty, technical prowess, or editing, ‘it’s the emotional connection my clients have with an image, that really makes it powerful’… I rounded out the ‘first tour’ with shots of an antique cable-tool rig and other decommissioned equipment at the Million Barrel & Petroleum Museums and a trip to Pinwell.
Catch Parts 2 in the next issue “A Day on the Rig”
Jamie Rood, Photographic Artist