Project Overview


The goal of this project is to put a human face on the energy issue by creating a collection of life-size photographs of American coal miners, suitable for museum exhibition. These monumental portraits reveal the human essence of the coal industry and their exhibition will celebrate and honor these men and women as contemporary American heroes.

The proposed exhibit, consisting of 18 full size portraits, would premiere locally in West Virginia  in June 2009 and then travel to museums and other venues, both public and private, throughout the United States .

Few will ever have the chance to tour a mine or meet a miner, but as statistics show that museum attendance far outstrips even that of professional sporting events, the many faces of coal mining could easily be seen and appreciated by millions.

The Portraits

These photographs are life-size portraits from the tops of the miner’s helmets to the tips of their boots. Between 30 and 40 photos are taken in a grid, life-size on 8 x 10 inch film covering the entire person. Those negatives are then contact printed and assembled to create a full size person. The quality is extraordinary, as this is ultimate photographic quality – the contact print. Every hair and every thread is as clear as in real life. Most of the portraits are shot in black & white and mounted on 16 gauge hot rolled steel sheets. The final pieces are almost 7 feet tall.

The Artist

Thorney Lieberman has been a professional photographer for 40 years. His work is internationally held in museum, corporate and private collections. A book of his photographs of New York City - Manhattan Lightscape (Abbeville Press, 1990) - capped his career as a master architectural photographer and is still in print. Lieberman’s life size photographs of Native Americans in ceremonial regalia have been shown in museums in the United States and Europe and are archived in tribal museums and cultural centers throughout the country. Most recently, Lieberman was honored as a Walter Gropius Master Artist at The Huntington Museum of Art, where a retrospective of his work was shown (May - August 2008).

His website is www.ThorneyLieberman.com

Shooting a Portrait - See the project in action

VTS_01_1 from Thorney Lieberman on Vimeo.

Video created by my assistant and colleague, Mike Riley while I photographed James and Kailee Brandon on March 2, 2010.  This portrait was commissioned by James Laurita at Mepco in Morgantown.

The Sponsors

  • Appalachian Power, Charleston, West Virginia
  • Prichard Mining Co. Hansford, West Virginia
  • International Coal Group, Scott Depot, West Virginia
  • A.T. Massey Coal Co., Richmond, Virginia
  • Natural Resource Partners, Huntington, West Virginia
  • Petroleum Products, Belle, West Virginia
  • Jackson Kelly, PLLC, Charleston, West Virginia
  • Wells Fargo Insurance Services, WV, VA, KY and TN
  • International Industries, Gilbert, West Virginia
  • Rajkovich, Williams, Kilpatrick & True, Lexington, Kentucky
  • Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs, LLP., Lexington, Kentucky
  • Roger Nicholson, Charleston, West Virginia
  • Steptoe & Johnson, WV, OH, and KY
  • United Mine Workers of America, Fairfax Virginia
  • Bituminous Coal Heritage Foundation Museum, Madison, West Virginia
  • Progressity Development Solutions, Charleston, West Virginia
  • Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, Charleston, West Virginia
  • Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love, Charleston, West Virginia
  • Philip B. Gibson, Versailles, Kentucky
  • Dafire.com Web Design, Scottsdale, Arizona
  • Mouldagraph Corp., Nitro, West Virginia
  • Charleston Steel, Dunbar, West Virginia
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