Following several years of exploring disused mines in Wales, I am undertaking a long term photographic exploration of these dark and abandoned places.
So what lies in the darkness beyond the reach of a mine explorer's lamp? That is the story that these photographs will tell....
The aim - to explore and document disused and abandoned mines as they are today. Visually inspiring, often difficult to get into and filled with the twisted, rusting remnants of our rich, mining past. Several mountains which were once solid are now filled with enormous empty spaces; big enough to fit a sky scraper inside; one such mountain contains Rhosydd Slate Mine, near Blaenau Ffestiniog. This hollow mountain is littered inside with piles of broken slate from collapsed mine passages and room sized chunks of slate that have fallen from the roof. The remains of crumbling passages and tunnels, railway tracks and trucks used to remove the slate remain scattered through miles of broken passageways. The beautiful Cae Coch sulphur mine, also in north Wales, was dug on a steep incline, it has crumbling, decaying rock surfaces glowing with multi coloured bacteria, peppered with orange and red pools of sulphur where bacteria feed on the chemicals and minerals adding to it's rich rainbow of colours. Wooden beams supporting the roof are decaying, being eaten by bacteria and rotting from damp. The Dinas Rock silica mines in south Wales have miles of passageways with large rock pillars supporting the roof and many passages filled with water. Again there is much evidence of past mining activity with caverns and tunnels that sometimes disappear into a deep void, while others close down and go nowhere. These are just a few of the diverse underground spaces created by mining that I have already explored and photographed.
Upon completion of this work:
There will be an archive of imagery recording a diverse range of disused mines in Wales including slate, coal, silica and sulphur. Stories from some of those involved in mining and stories of modern day adventure. Published features in the national and photographic press. A photography book with text and exhibitions.
Why this project is important
The disused mines in Wales are historically, politically and geographically important to both Wales and the rest of the UK, they are a part of our national heritage that few people will ever see. They contain remnants of the working lives of the miners who created those spaces, not just the tunnels and chambers they dug, but railway tracks and carts, old tea pots and pipes, rooms that were built underground for storage to house equipment and to organise the mining operations from. But time has also left it's mark, as these once busy places filled with the sounds and smells of mining activity are now very different, they are gradually decaying as bacteria, water and collapses are changing them. My aim is to explore and record them as they are today. To inspire discussion and encourage the imagination to wonder what life must have been like working in these environments many years ago. To show how beautiful, mysterious and intriguing these spaces are now.
Disused mine photography often means long trips underground, wriggling through muddy passages, wading in underground streams and swimming or paddling across icy cold lakes, climbing unstable rock surfaces and dangling from ropes. It is a tough environment for camera equipment; water, mud, grit, rocks, sand and more mud. The cameras are carried in tough, waterproof cases and if I'm wet or covered in mud - as I often am - the cameras are handled wearing latex gloves. For lighting the mines I use powerful LED torches sweeping across the rock surfaces during long exposures and several flash units with light stands, which are fired using remote triggers. For the really huge caverns, which I haven't photographed yet, I will be using Megaflash flash bulbs. I have been exploring caves and disused mines since 2003 and working as a professional photographer for over twenty years.
A thank you to my fellow mine explorers....
For every photographic trip that I make underground I have a few other cavers with me. Their knowledge of mines, enthusiasm and patience while I take photographs are invaluable and greatly appreciated. Without them, these photographs wouldn't happen.
The early stages of this work have already been featured in the national press including - the Daily Mail, Telegraph and the Times newspapers.