Susan Moffat is a fine art documentary photographer, curator, and educator based in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Her social documentary images explore culture and humanity. Her ongoing project, Chasing Coal, is based on memories and images of the coal industry and her family's past coal mining company in northeastern Pennsylvania. The ongoing project deals with the after-effects of mining and social interactions in that environment.
She's drawn to humanity and the social struggles within and searches to capture those moments in a striking light. Working in both analog and digital photography, she has an extensive background in teaching photography and photo history in schools in the USA and overseas.
Susan Moffat has studied under Maggie Steber, Amber Bracken, Danny Wilcox Frazer, Emmet Gowin, Olivia Parker, and many others. She has exhibited in galleries in the USA; Quebec, Canada; Lisbon, Portugal; and Canary Islands, Spain.
Don't Stand Still, my most recent and ongoing project focuses on the profound culture and history of the Wampanoag Tribe, located in southeastern Massachusetts. As they struggle to hold onto their deeply-rooted culture and be sovereign within a larger society, they maintain sustainability in a world of a climate and politics in crisis. For thousands of years, theTribe has had a respect and close relationship with the land being threatened today. I begin to reveal the strength and struggles of their present-day lives.
Chasing Coal, an ongoing project, is a personal interpretation and search to discover and make sense of my roots and the reality of my mythologized ideas. I went back to my homeland, the coal country in northeastern PA where my grandfather was one of three brothers who owned Moffat Coal Company. They inherited it from their father who, in 1906, began as a coal miner.
Taylor, home to the ruins of Moffat Coal Company, is a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. During this project, I had the feeling of stepping in and out of a dream. The coal company's shell of the past is a symbol of the post-economic decline, typical in
small US cities. Sitting in the center of 90 acres atop a hill in Taylor, PA is an indestructible ruin made of concrete and steel beams.
Etched in my memory are radios playing a jingle that ended with "You'll enjoy the best in heating, live in comfort day and night... Moffat Premium Anthracite." I remember driving past the massive culm dump in Dunmore on the way into Scranton, the sulfur smell of it burning a place in my hippocampus.
When asking the daughter of one of Moffat's miners how she felt about coal, she said that even though her father died of black lung and had, at one point, been buried by a landslide of coal breaking all of his ribs, it was a job and she said that that was the way it was.
Through the lens, the work shows the area's struggles and strengths and examines both sides, including the beauty of crumbling historic architecture and landscape, and the hard lines etched into the faces of the people.
Most recently, I connected with and photographed active surface-miners. Rarely deep mining, strip mining is less dangerous for the workers, but more visible to the land. There is effort to reclaim that land and replant in an effort to repair. I continue to unveil the story.
portfolio review with Amber Bracken and Social Documentary Network