Portfolio: Kirsten Hoving captures the beauty of Vermont's marble quarries


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The Independent Culture

Vermont might be the sixth-smallest state in America, but it can also lay claim to providing the very bedrock of the country. The US Supreme Court, the Washington Monument, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery, the Jefferson Memorial… all were built using marble from the state that borders Canada to the north and New York to the west.

The first marble quarry in the US was opened in Vermont in 1785, and it is not only the country's traditional centre of marble and granite quarrying, it is also its largest producer of slate.

In recent decades, however, the region's quarrying industry has slowed considerably "due to a decreased demand for stone in architectural contexts – modernist architecture tends toward glass and steel – and increased competition from other parts of the world", explains Kirsten Hoving, an art historian and photographer who has called the state home for 32 years.

"Some communities have been deeply affected, while others have adapted: the former marble sheds in my town, for example, now house a complex of shops and offices."

As shrewd as such repurposing might be, allowing the beauty of the quarries to go unremarked would be positively indecent – which is where Hoving steps in.

The 62-year-old has spent three years travelling around her adopted state, capturing the magnificence of what was once the heartbeat of the community.

An abandoned quarry near Proctor: 'I like the play of the rough rock against the quarried stone and the way that creates a dialogue between nature and culture' (Kirsten Hoving)

She began the project after being commissioned to write an essay for a museum catalogue about the Canadian industrial-landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky's shots of the state's quarries. "So much of Edward's work revolves around the issue of scale, as a metaphor for the enormity of the problems facing the planet," says Hoving. "My voice is a quieter one that takes a closer look at surfaces, textures, colours, to help us understand what these amazing places can tell us about our interaction with the stone beneath our feet.

"Many of these places seem hidden away, but you drive up to them and then, quite literally, the ground falls out from under you. I love that feeling of the landscape suddenly becoming a moonscape – or at least something very different from the farmland or forest that leads up to it."