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Shades of gray: LSU researcher studies South Louisiana's historical ties to the oil industry
Date:4/20/2011

uring the Great Depression to organize a team of photographers to document the "benefits of oil on the everyday lives of Americans." Standard Oil executives intended for the photographs to function as a visual source of advertisement and public relations for the company. That being said, the propagandistic qualities of the project were not lost to Stryker and his photographers.

At that time, much of the oil industry was already located in Southern Louisiana, an area replete with natural resources and poverty. The Standard Oil Collection, spanning some 100,000 photographs, many of which were taken in Baton Rouge, Kaplan, Pierre Part, Golden Meadow, Grand Isle and other small towns across Louisiana, often defies the stereotypical idea of an oil company photo. These photos, thanks to the artful eye of Stryker and his photographers, underscore how integrated oil was into the lives of the people it impacted and to the culture and way of life of Louisianans.

"As a native of Louisiana, I grew up in a family and in communities with deep stakes in the oil industry, so I already had my finger on the pulse of a people economically and culturally invested in oil. Now, what I wanted to do was to find a way to look behind the typical photos of a literally oiled landscape to see the faces of people who are directly impacted by even the most subtle of economic and environmental changes," said Pasquier. "When we look at the photos of oily pelicans or an oiled coastline, we should also be trying to understand the backstory that was there long before the oil spill. We should also be looking for the everyday human story that isn't drenched in oil."

Pasquier, inspired by the Standard Oil Collection, decided to look for the individuals and families featured in the original photos. What he found was that the oil industry is so intertwined with life in coastal Louisiana that it's often imperceptible to those who are living it.

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Contact: Ashley K. Berthelot
aberth4@lsu.edu
225-278-8694
Louisiana State University
Source:Eurekalert

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