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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Lothringen and the Valleys

A few weeks back, I went to the Winding House in New Tredegar with the Documentary Photography students of the University of South Wales (Newport Division).

This was the eastern end of the Valleys, mining communities that are not mining communities any longer, that are becoming satellite towns for the Cardiff area. We saw the pictures from “Coalfaces: a mining community in photos – Bargoed in the 1970s.” This featured featured a series photographs taken around the Bargoed area in the 1970s by a young Swedish photographer, Kjell-Åke Andersson.

Those were great, but what was even more interesting was hearing a talk by Paul Cabuts on the history of the valleys explored through images, seeing how layers of geology, migration, exploitation, transport and housing mixed into the social and cultural make-up of the valleys.

It's a stunning landscape, but faded, with nature disguising the old industrial focal points, with new developments and transport links adding an anonymous edge to what was once a dynamic, cosmopolitan community of people who worked in some of the more dangerous environments the world has to offer.

Then I received Anders Pascal's book, Lothringen in the post and it struck a chord - faded industrial, landscapes mixing with new build roads and infrastructure, overlaid with an air of cultural stagnation. There's even a supermarket across a main road. It's a small book, self-published, a perfectly-formed example of the modest photo-book/zine, but with the added bonus of being free if you fire off an email in Pascal's direction.

There's not much information on Pascal's website, except for this ironic quote from former President Mitterand (and a translation of sorts is below).

 L'espoir de la Lorraine, ce doit être aussi l'espoir de toute la France, celui d'une nation qui se retrouve, qui refuse le déclin, décidée à se hisser à la pointe des nations industrielles.

The hope of the Lorraine region, this must also be the hope of all France, is that of a nation that finds itself and refuses decline, that is determined to reach the cutting edge of industrial nations.

Order Lothringen free here.

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