Group Exhibition “En creux / Commande photographique sur le Bassin minier”

The first time I saw a spoil tip was from the window of a high-speed train as it approached the North of France after departing Paris Gare du Nord. I had just moved from Japan, and I remember being awestruck by this strange black mountain that suddenly appeared in the flowing scenery. I immediately needed to know more about it. This particular black mountain was that of Terril de Sainte Henriette in Hénin-Beaumont; one of what I would soon find out is a vast network of 200 or so manmade mountains stretching from the border of Belgium west throughout the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France. When I first visited this spoil tip, it was snowing. The tall monochromatic contrast of pure white snow against the dull black remains of coal symbolized a mountain filled with countless memories of the people involved.

11 years later I faced the same spoil tip but with a new perspective and a project commissioned by the Centre Régional de la Photographie Hauts-de-France titled “Chromophore”. I still remember walking with a tripod and a large format camera through the dimly lit streets to start shooting at sunrise, peering through the viewfinder from all angles until the sun went down to find just the right light for this symbolical place.

I spent about 10 months visiting various spoil tips, conducting field research on the vegetation conditions at each places, investigating soil quality using soil chromatography, and making plant pigments + gum bichromate printing. I wanted to capture the “current state of each spoil tips” with their specific colors and smells…I wanted to value the time I spent with each spoil tips… Perhaps these desires were the driving force behind the creation of Chromophore.

With all of this said, I am excited to announce a group exhibition En creux / Commande photographique sur le Bassin minier from June 24 to September 17, at CRP/ Centre Régional de la Photographie Hauts-de-France with Isabella Hin, Clement Brugger and Apolline Lamoril, who worked on the same commission project under the theme of “Bassin minier du Nord-Pas-de-Calais”. If you find yourself in the North of France, I hope you will visit the exhibit!

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