Image Analysis – IH

Ismail Hozien                                                                                                                    Spring 2019

Environmental Inequality in Postwar America                                                         Prof. Neil Maher

New Jersey Institute of Technology                                                                Image Analysis Report

The Wayne Interim Storage Site (WISS) and its Surroundings Today

            This image depicts the Wayne Friends and Family Park in the foreground, a dog park that stands on what was once a toxic site, and its surroundings in the background. The site was use by the company W.R. & Grace for the extraction of Thorium ore and other rare earth metals. Toxic waste was buried on site and eventually contaminated the site and surrounding areas. Once the higher than normal levels of radiation were discovered, the EPA placed the site on the National Priorities list and the U.S. Department of Energy initiated a clean-up process. The clean-up was concluded in the year 1993 and the site and its surrounding areas continued to undergo remedial action. The site was officially removed off of the National Priorities List in 2012 and has been transformed into a dog park.  What makes this image particularly valuable is that it shows the site today and the properties immediately surrounding the it, which helps me understand the various parties affected by the site and its history.

            I am the photographer who took this photo. I decided to create my own image rather than use an available image from the internet or some other source because I couldn’t find an image that did the site enough justice. I took the image recently, in March 2019. At this time there was no construction going on in the image, everything was functioning as it usually would; the dog park was open and active. I wanted to take my knowledge of the site’s surroundings as a Wayne local and communicate that knowledge to the general public, through this image. None of the images I found of the site online did a good enough job of showing the surrounding businesses, lands, and residences.

            When an observer first looks upon the image, he notices the trees and the dog park. What is particularly striking about the dog park is how nice it looks. Even the park’s driveway looks very neat and clean. The design of the park itself looks very relaxing to the eye. The park was clearly designed in a clever manner, probably to make the scary looking fenced-off plot of land filled with overgrown weeds into an attractive site for the locals to enjoy. It is even possible that by designing this site to look so attractive, the intent was to in turn make the area more attractive for real-estate and business. This assumption is strengthened by the fact that around the same time that the park was built a new Pharmacy opened up right across from the site and new set of houses were built right next to it, both of which are visible in the image. Through analyzing the attractive nature of the site, we can see how the drastic change that the site went through affected the surrounding area.

            Another feature that stands out when one looks at the image is the set of new houses and the businesses in the background. The houses lie right next to the site with only a small distance separating the two. It is worth noting that these houses were built in 2012, the same year in which the site was finally removed from the National Priorities List after a long clean-up and remedial process. This gives us hints on why these houses were built near the site. It is probable that the site caused the surrounding property to be cheaper, and that when the site was finally taken off the NPL, the cheap land was taken advantage of. The removal of the site from the NPL likely affected the local businesses as well. One thing that stands out in the image is the red neon “Stone Cliff Cleaners” sign to the left. Attached to this building is another business, the newly opened Black Oak Ridge Pharmacy. These are only a two of the various businesses that exist across the road from the site, making this area a commercial area. These businesses may be another sign of the cheaper land price in the area surrounding the site.

            In the back left of the image an observer can see red farm buildings with white roofs. These buildings are part of the what was the old Kuehm Farm, today known as Farms view. This is a farm that has been around for over a century; it predates the toxic site. The farm lies downhill from the site, this means that when it rains, the farm gets hit by whatever the rain picked up from the site. One local with whom I spoke mentioned that the owners denied that any toxins reached the farm, yet he expressed that he found that hard to believe. He went on to explain that the tomatoes that the farm grew used to look deformed. The susceptible location of the farm and its existence before and throughout the duration of the toxic site makes it a key affected party in the area.

            This image is valuable because it shows the site today along with the different affected parties surrounding it. This feature of the image helps me connect my site to the understanding we developed in class of environmental inequality in the postwar United States, because we learned that when it comes to a harmful site, it is those around it who pay the toll, and ultimately it is those who are affected who must act to end the harm inflicted upon them.

WORKSHEET 1: Image Analysis

Follow the steps in this worksheet to help uncover details, relationships, and, in the end, meanings embedded in an image that you might miss if you only focus on the image’s content. The formal analysis is the important first tool for interpreting images in the environmental humanities.

FOCAL POINT: Write down and describe the first site in the image where your eyes are drawn to.

The dog park and the trees.

DIRECTION OF MOVEMENT WITHIN THE PICTURE FRAME: Note where your eyes are drawn to next, traveling from one place to another across the image. See if you can create a narrative from the string of visual scenes and relationships among component parts. What might the progression of visual elements mean?

After noticing the dog park I see the red neon sign to the left, followed by the red traffic light. I then notice the red farm building and then the homes behind the park.

SPATIAL RELATIONSHIPS: Look to see if there are any spatial divisions in the image that reflect different zones of activity.

The dog park is in the foreground and takes up the most space in the image (other than the sky).

COLOR: Note which features share the same color.  Which ones are brightest, darkest, and dimmest.  Can you make any judgments about these differences, including how the elements may be understood in relation to the others?

The neon sign, the traffic lights, and the farm buildings are all red. The neon sign and the traffic lights are bright while the trees and farm buildings are dark. The bright red color of the neon sign may be to attract customers.

SCALE/SIZE:  Compare the sizes of the various visual elements.  Larger size generally correlates with greater importance.

The large size of the dog park reveals its importance as the central piece in the image; the image was taken to show this dog park and its surroundings; everything in the image is seen in relation to the dog park.

CONTRASTS: Note how some visual elements play off each other. These contrasts serve to accentuate differences and/or exaggerate the separate qualities of each. Conversely, little contrast can communicate likeness or similarity.

The large park contrasts with the small farm buildings, maybe hinting at the fact that the site’s role in the area has been far greater than the farm’s role. 

INDIVISUAL ACTORS & DETAILS: Write down any other details that don’t seem to fit a pattern yet seem important for understanding the image. 

The gloomy sky. The gloomy sky could be seen as a sign of the dark history of the site.

ABSENCES: Can you think of something that is conspicuously missing from the picture?

The people and dogs in the park.

VALUES & MEANINGS:  List some of the values you think the image maker is expressing through these visual relationships and elements.  Try to state a takeaway message or two that you can then verify with other sources.

The park is the central piece of the area. It looks good, but the site itself has a far darker history that has defined the area since. 

WHERE TO GO NEXT: List other sources you can turn to find out more information about the image.

The Wayne Public Library

The Wayne Municipal Building

The Wayne Today (Newspaper)