North Dakota has become the center of conversation for a more energy-efficient move for the United States. With the discovery of oil in "The Bakken Shale" and hydraulic fracing, people from all over the country migrated to the rural towns of North Dakota. The rumors almost hard to believe that you could make six-figures as a roughneck attracted most of the new occupants. The majority of the oil field workers were male and would find themselves living in overpriced "man camps" provided by oil companies. The struggles of depression, fatigue, and below zero weather would make or break these men's charter.
I was 24; my truck was packed with clothing and camera equipment. I was looking for adventure, looking for a story. I ended up in The Bakken, the center of the North Dakota Oil Boom. My approach to cover the men in the oil fields would be from personal experience, for I was looking to tell how young Americans who traveled from all over were searching for opportunity. I was hired to work at a frac sand storage facility that stored and loaded semi-trucks with a critical ingredient for hydraulic fracking. I felt the only way I could understand these men in The Bakken was to work alongside them.
The night shift was cold, lonely, but the one thing that kept you going was the other men around you. Almost every night, equipment would break, and production could not stop; millions of dollars were at risk. You were a gear in a machine that is hunting for black gold. To many of us, young men, this was our first time working with heavy machinery. Too many of us, it was our first time out of our parent's house. The money was good, and the work was hard; it was something many fathers would have been proud of seeing their sons do—a real American dream.
The land of Nort Dakota was not the most friendly of places. Many of us workers would experience challenges that we did not aspect to see, and these challenges had nothing to do with work. The Bakken was mainly a population of men; a small population of women worked in The Bakken, which created an environment of competition, aggression, and loneliness. People need companionship, and when they can't find it with a relationship with the opposite sex or a family member, they find it with the ones around them. My story is focused on this brotherhood and being allowed to love a stranger as your brother. A frac sand worker named Jeremy Fyfe explained in an interview, "It is like I have family, not friends."
These photographs don't show oil; they don't show industry production. These photographs show a human connection with men and the land. Moments collected together that documents a time where you had to seek the opportunity to start a life in this country, a moment where Americans came together to achieve a goal. These moments are of sons, brothers, young fathers, and boys who will later become men.
I still carry little things after two years from the oil boom, but most have been buried with six years of memories and experiences. The one thing that will never leave my memory is of the men I met on The Bakken's long cold nights.
6/20/14- North Dakota - Dylan, an operator at a frac sand storage facility, sits on a front-end loader's bucket. Dylan moved from Louisiana to North Dakota to find opportunities for himself, as many young men have.
8/2/14- North Dakota - Three young men chase out a wild animal that became trapped in a frac sand silo. A majority of oil field companies have built huge staging sites in the middle of farmlands and wilderness. This has changed the environment for wildlife in the area.
5/5/14- North Dakota - After a long shift, a worker dozes off on top of an empty box inside a trailer.
7/11/15- North Dakota - Brooke, a man from Florida, lights off a smoke grenade as he waits from a job to start at a newly built frac sand facility.
2/7/14- North Dakota - Smoke shoots to the sky from a natural gas flame that has been flooded with oil. Well sights that have pump jacks on them are inspected and emptied daily, but things go wrong with the land's extreme conditions.
2/6/14- North Dakota - A phone call awakens Adam Braum that more trucks will be coming to him to fill with frac sand. Adam must put on three layers of clothing to protect himself from the cold weather and winds. "I have nightmares about the cell phone; I have only gotten two hours of sleep."
3/9/14- North Dakota - Adam moves a conveyor to a rail car that is full of frac sand. Frac sand is unloaded from the railcar into a sand truck.
5/31/15- North Dakota - A fireball explodes from a natural gas pipe on a well site; gas is burned to save oil companies' money.
10/8/14- North Dakota - In Newtown, North Dakota, A man shows off his tattoos that tell his story of his life.
4/3/14- North Dakota - Adam Braum opens a railcar hatch with thousands of pounds of frac sand. The frac sand is then sent up a conveyor belt and poured into the truck. During the winter months, railcar hatches can freeze and the sand inside as well. Workers are instructed to use a wheat burner to defrost the hatch.
7/4/14- North Dakota - A group of men lights fireworks during the Fourth of July celebration at a local farm. Many of these men will miss celebrating holidays with their families for the extra pay.
1/15/15- North Dakota - Kyle Dean, a North Dakota native, worked on farms most of his life, but when the oil fields came, so did the opportunity to make more money.
6/20/14- North Dakota - Dylan moved from Louisiana to North Dakota to find opportunities for himself, as many young men have.
8/5/14- North Dakota - Grant Brunswick, A North Dakota native, sits in an old farmhouse while exploring rural farmlands in North Dakota. Grant works for an oil company that services pump jacks. His work takes him to many parts of the state, where he finds old buildings and houses that have been left behind.
2/5/14- North Dakota - Adam Braum, 26, stands outside his hotel room that he has been sent to by a fraction sad company to work at a small site in Wolf Point, Montana. Adam has been living in this hotel for three months and has been working 14-16 hour shifts alone.
3/1/14- North Dakota - Adam Braun cooks a meal on his hotel patio. Adam has lived in a hotel for three months during a job project in Wolf Point, Montana.
2/28/14- North Dakota - Adam Braun holds a stray cat tight that he rescued from the winter blizzard. The cat served Adam as a companion during the lonely days working in Wolf Point, Montana.
4/7/15- North Dakota - A derick stands in the middle of a rural field; the dericks are used to drill and push casing pipes deep into the ground to pump oil.
8/15/15- North Dakota - Locals and oil field workers attend an annual crash derby in Sidney, Montana. Participants prepare year long to fix up old cars to crash into one another.
8/6/14- North Dakota - A young oil field worker brandishes his long rifle at a shooting range during a day off from his job.
2/20/14- North Dakota - A Sioux grain worker looks down from a grain silo next door to a frac sand storage lot. With little opportunities on the Wolf Point reservation, oil field work is a desired occupation.
9/5/14- North Dakota - Jeremy, from Idaho, moved to The Bakken to start a business, his plans changed as he found out how much oil workers were making.
9/5/14- North Dakota - Sitting on truck sand can, a young worker looks out to watch equipment as frac sand fills the truck. This young worker was later found to be using drugs while on the job and fired for endangering other workers. Meth has become a pandemic in The Bakken, its popular with men that work long hours in the oil fields.
9/23/14- North Dakota - Orange lights aluminate the night sky. The source from this light is thousands of natural gas flames. These flames are located on well sites producing oil and burn the gas instead of collecting it.
6/20/14- North Dakota - A man removes plastic wrap from a co-worker back, revealing a new tattoo he got in the oil field. Men in The Bakken find themselves discovering more than an opportunity; they discover a brotherhood between workers. The job is hard, the land is unforgiving, but the friendships are strong.
4/17/15- North Dakota - A resident looks at a flame started by an oil company; he grows frustrated as the smoke from the burning frac bags hits his house. Many locals don't want the oil fields in North Dakota. Nicknames for workers like "Oil Field Trash" has been used to describe the outsiders coming in.
7/1/15- North Dakota - An army of derrick is staged to be transported or stored in the late months of the oil boom. Without warning fracing companies started laying off workers and shutting down production. The price of oil has dropped significantly and cost more to drill than to profit.