Eric Kayne was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. He took his first photography class in sixth grade and continued with photography off and on until he graduated high school. After high school, he led a vagabond academic life that took him to the University of California Santa Barbara, the Academy of Art in San Francisco, Collin County Community College, San Antonio College, Austin Community College and finally the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated with a BA in studio art. Later on, he earned his MA in Photography at Ohio University’s School of Visual Communication.
He now splits his time between editorial and commercial assignments, while creating as much time as possible for personal projects. His clients include Arcade Fire, The Wall Street Journal, Houston Methodist Hospital System, BBVA Compass Bank, H.E.B., and the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
In The Pipeline’s Path
The Keystone XL pipeline (phase IV), a pipeline designed to duplicate a current pipeline but with a shorter route and larger diameter, has become a point of political contention and a symbol of many, and often contradictory, things: both corporate greed and job creation; energy independence and a disaster waiting to happen. Reading stories about it, I heard plenty from the adversaries on both sides – the oil producers and the environmentalists – but I wasn’t hearing enough from the people who lived directly in the path of the proposed pipeline. I wanted to photograph these people and tell their stories.
I decided to focus on the pipeline route through Nebraska. Unlike South Dakota, where only one rancher in the entire state refused to sign an easement to let the pipeline through his property, a substantial number of Nebraska farmers and ranchers organized their opposition, eventually forming a non-profit called Bold Nebraska to oppose the pipeline. Dozens have refused to sign easement agreements to allow the pipeline across their land.
The ranchers and farmers I spoke with talked about being stewards of the land, not just for their own families and the generations before them, but stewards of the environment and of America’s food security. They feel there is nothing good about the pipeline. It can be bought and sold long after it is put into the ground; it could even be sold to a foreign country. It would be filled with a sandy, corrosive substance that can abrade and degrade the inside of a pipeline, causing a spill. Tar sands contain benzene, a suspected carcinogen that sinks in water. The pipeline would cross the Ogallala Aquifer – one of the world’s largest – and any leak would threaten to pollute this precious resource.
Among the ranchers and farmers who did sign easements, the attitude was that the pipeline was like any other financial decision that affects their business. Farming and ranching is very expensive, and the extra income was a welcome addition to their volatile bottom lines.
After a six-year review, the Obama administration rejected phase IV of the Keystone XL pipeline on Nov. 6, 2015.
To see more of Eric’s work, check out his website.