Project produced by the 9/9 Bis (Oignies, FR), and shown in a solo exhibition in Aquaterra (Drocourt, FR) and other cultural sites of the area.
The north of France is crossed throughout by the Bassin Minier, a former heavy coal mining area. The 9/9 Bis, a public foundation taking care of that industrial heritage, has commissionned me for this photographic project.
The main idea was to explore and document two different coal slag heaps in the Bassin Minier, one of them being rather small and simple, in the middle of the coal mining field, and the other being large and complex, at the south border of the field.
In terms of photography, it is a bold project. Coal slag heaps are a very banal and despised component of the landscape there, places very simple in terms of shape, liveliness, colors. They are basically gestalt-heaps of black rock, usually forbidden to public access. But by wandering there with a photographer’s point of view, one realises that this apparent simplicity is a great freedom. This is a kind of landscape so minimal, that it is free to be completely recomposed by the way of photographic framing. And in an area so flat in terms of topography, their presence introduce a strange glitch in one’s perspective, by giving the sudden opportunity to take height and discover a point of view on that land that would have never existed without coal mining exploitation.
No one could have predicted that long years of inhumane, blind, subterranean work would have eventually provided us with the empowering possibility of seeing one’s own landscape from above.
I used one of my favorite cameras, a medium format 1975 Bronica EC-TL, shooting square compositions cut out from the raw matter of the landscape. Positive color film carried out the landscape further into fantasy, by heavily transforming the natural colors, introducing balance shifts and slightly unreal tints.
The exhibition at Aquaterra, in Drocourt: