A Disquieting Look at Life Around the Caspian Sea

Photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews Captures the Geography of the Land and the Practices That Connect People to It

The Caspian Sea is the world’s largest inland body of water, nestled between Europe and Asia, and surrounded by five countries: Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Turkmenistan. Through history, the area has been under the sway of the Persians, the Mongols, the Ottomans, and the Russians.

For five years, from 2010-2015, British photographer Chloe Dewe Mathews traveled throughout this part of the world, chronicling its people, politics, and geography. Her photos detail not only the elements of its famous geology—which include oil and uranium—but also the practices that connect residents …

In Louisiana’s Fishing Villages, Food and Faith Are Found in the Water

Photographer J. T. Blatty Captures a Vanishing Way of Life in the Bayou

For generations, water has provided everything to the people of southeastern Louisiana’s fishing communities. Their meals. Their livelihoods. Their recreation. Their birthright. Even their faith, as one photograph by J. …

How Venezuela’s Oil Riches Fueled a Literary Explosion

In the Mid-20th Century, Writers Seized on the Conflicts Laid Bare by Petroleum's Power to Reshape Society

On December 14, 1922, a gusher of petroleum was discovered in Zulia, a rural area of western Venezuela. For nine days the oil showered onto the surrounding farmland, scaring the …

What Saudi Arabia’s Vibrant Art Scene Says About Its Internal Struggles

Artists Are Using Ambiguity to Probe the Fault Line Between Modernity and Conservative Islam

When I first saw Ajlan Gharem’s video, “Paradise Has Many Gates,” at an art studio in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I was amazed.

It opens with a small single-story structure made …

Imagining California Without Oil Refineries

Not Being Gasoline Consumers Has Become Part of Residents' Identity

On the morning of May 31, Robert Hubina hurt his foot, so he skipped surfing to walk on the beach in Ventura, where he saw a dolphin with black tar …

There’s No Such Thing as a Spill-Proof Way to Transport Oil

Even the World’s First Long-Distance Pipeline that Crossed the Alleghenies in 1879 Was Prone to Accidents and Sabotage

To a historian of pipelines, last month’s Santa Barbara oil spill is a reminder that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Since their first introduction in …