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Slow Burn: A Photodocument of Centralia, Pennsylvania
     

Slow Burn: A Photodocument of Centralia, Pennsylvania

by Renee Jacobs, Margaret O. Kirk (Introduction)
 

First published in 1986, Slow Burn chronicles Centralia’s demise from an underground coal mine fire and depicts a singular epic event in Pennsylvania history, representing the confluence of environmental, scientific, bureaucratic, and emotional tragedies. As an award-winning photojournalist, Jacobs moved into a house in Centralia’s impact zone in

Overview

First published in 1986, Slow Burn chronicles Centralia’s demise from an underground coal mine fire and depicts a singular epic event in Pennsylvania history, representing the confluence of environmental, scientific, bureaucratic, and emotional tragedies. As an award-winning photojournalist, Jacobs moved into a house in Centralia’s impact zone in 1983 to document in photographs and interviews the end stages of the tiny anthracite coal town’s unsuccessful fight to resolve the intractable problems that began with the mine fire in 1962 and culminated in the razing of the town by the federal government.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“The gallery of stark Works Progress Administration–style photographs by Renée Jacobs portrays with poignancy a Welsh, Irish, and Slavic Roman Catholic community as it once was, poised in stubborn bewilderment.”

—Ben A. Franklin, New York Times Book Review

“These are rapidly made ‘decisive moment’ 35mm photos in the Cartier-Bresson tradition of photojournalism—a very worthy effort that has led to a book, Slow Burn. . . . I wish the future of Centralia were as assured as the future of many of these revealing, heart-rending, eloquent and persuasive images.”

—Victoria Donohoe, Philadelphia Inquirer

“Jacobs tells the story of the fire and recounts, in poignant interviews and photographs, the residents’ tough choice between staying and resettling. . . . From Todd Domboski’s account of falling into a dangerous hole in his grandmother’s backyard to Helen Womer’s decision to stay in Centralia no matter what happens, this book is filled with stories of courage in the face of an invisible enemy.”

Publishers Weekly

“A somber and darkly fascinating portrait of the community as it fights to save itself.”

Small Town

“[Slow Burn is a] moving pictorial chronicle of desperate people fighting government bureaucracy in an effort to save their community. . . . Some of the photos are classics.”

Pike County Dispatch

“Renée Jacobs hauntingly describes the human suffering caused by the fire in her book, Slow Burn. . . . Images of living rooms with family pictures next to carbon dioxide monitors give the reader a sense of the palpable anxiety which Centralia residents lived with every day. The photographs, complemented by brief interviews, chronicle the gradual erosion of hope as Centralians struggle to save their homes and their lives.”

Human Services in the Rural Environment

Slow Burn is an unsparing ‘photodocument’ of what the fire has wrought. . . . Jacobs’s stark photographs and telling quotations . . . make emotional sense of the story.”

Boston Phoenix

“Where once there was familiarity with open doors and trusting hearts, in a community that could be your home anywhere in America, an invisible cancer grew. It’s the unseen, slow-moving nature of this underground burning that took Centralia apart.

“The human spirit doesn’t want to believe, see, or hear what can destroy our sanctified special places in the world. Renée Jacobs faithfully and compassionately documents in pictures and words the confusion, uncertainty, and fighting spirit of Centralia’s residents—and the painful destruction and relocation of the residents of this little Pennsylvania town. Slow Burn is a compelling story about—and for—all of us.”

—Shelby Lee Adams

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
First discovered in 1962, an apparently inextinguishable mine fire beneath Centralia, Pa., has made the once-charming area resemble a ghost town. Jacobs tells the story of the fire and recounts, in poignant interviews and photographs, the residents' tough choice between staying and resettling. Some people remain, clinging to memories of better times and hoping that the fire will move or be put out, while others have accepted government money and relocated elsewhere. From Todd Domboski's account of falling into a dangerous hole in his grandmother's backyard to Helen Womer's decision to stay in Centralia no matter what happens, this book is filled with stories of courage in the face of an invisible enemy. (November)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780271036816
Publisher:
Penn State University Press
Publication date:
03/30/2010
Series:
A Keystone Book ?
Pages:
176
Product dimensions:
8.40(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.50(d)

Meet the Author

Renée Jacobs went on to study environmental law as a result of her work in Centralia. She practiced civil rights and constitutional law for fifteen years. In 2007 she returned to photography.

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