Cancer Alley

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Cancer Alley is a ninety-mile stretch of the Mississippi River in Louisiana between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.  Along this waterway of industry is the highest concentration of oil refineries, chemical and petrochemical plants in the United States, accounting for tens of billions of dollars to the state’s gross product revenues.  It is referred as Cancer Alley by residents of communities near these plants due to the toxic air emissions and liquid discharges, which are believed to be the cause for a disproportionate high rate of cancer cases compared with other communities in the state.  Entire communities, such as Good Hope and Sunrise, have either been relocated or bought-out by the neighboring company.

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In 1792, some twenty merchants began to meet daily at wooden tables set-up under a buttonwood tree in Lower Manhattan, New York to trade U.S. bonds that had been sold to fund the Revolutionary War.  Within a few years, the New York Stock Exchange was founded and the beginning of the concrete canyons that make up the financial center of the world.  Today, there are nearly 3,000 companies listed on the Exchange with stock brokers trading nearly 314 billion shares valued at over $16 trillion dollars on a daily basis.  No longer under a tree, it costs brokerage firms close to $2.5 million dollars annually to have the opportunity to trade.  In between the moments of energy and anxiety inside, the stock brokers and traders retreat outside to the sidewalks and alleys to catch a moment of peace with a smoke.

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Cancer Alley – Louisiana and New York is a sad and tragic reflection on our desire for financial comfort and success at the expense of personal and environmental well-being.  The photographs reveal the relationship between the industrial landscape of Louisiana, where beauty and devastation collide along the Mississippi River and chain-smoking businessmen on Wall Street in New York, where one would expect the rewards of success to reflect the good life.  The photographs were made from 1993 – 1995.

Photographs, text and book design by Paul Turounet

Excerpts from The Hollow Men, T.S. Eliot, 1925

66 pages, 12 x 16 inches

26 photographs

Maquette Edition |  2008

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In honor of my grandfather, Edmond Turounet, and my dad, Paul Turounet.

You both devoted your working lives to Bank of America for nearly ninety years.

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