Tainted by coal

Photographs from the coal washery 2002 -2004,

Upper Silesia/Poland

Tainted by coal (International Publication)

C Photo NINE comes to Madrid


Ivorypress Art+Books
Madrid, Spain

Hardcover: 325 pages

Publisher: Ivory Press,

September 8, 2009

Editor: Elena Foster

Art Director: Oscar Marine

Languages: English/Chinese, Spanish/Japanese

Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 9.1 x 1.4 inches

published by C International Photo Magazine #9

Ivorypress launched the new issue of C International Photo Magazine, NINE at Ivorypress Art+Books, Madrid (Spain). This issue of C Photo proposes a partial but heterogeneus discourse about a collective history, proposing what could possibly be a new way of thinking about gender.

Portfolio (Tainted by coal, Page 172 - 187)

Barak, Yair / Beasley, Juliana / Burson, Nancy / Dimock, Jessica / Faust, Sarah / Hardy, Emma / Kahana, Vardi / Kantor, Dariusz / Kay, Barry / Leibovitz, Annie / Mofokeng, Santu / Phillips, Cara / Pinzon, Dulce / Scheynius, Lina / Sherman, Cindy/ Strauss, Zoe / van Meene, Hellen / Yeo, Jonathan

„As an example of a more dramatic style of documentary photography, made famous by Sebastiao Salgado, the Polish photographer Dariusz Kantor uses a refined technique to reveal the hardship endured by female miners in the Polish province Upper Silesia, who perform physically demanding work traditionally assigned to men. The photos of Faust, Beasley and Kantor are good examples of the validity of documentary photography.“ (...)

„C International Photo Magazine is published with the ambition of promoting debate and creativity in contemporary photography without cultural, geographical or thematic boundaries.

Published twice yearly, C Photo Magazine is produced in two different editions, English/Chinese and Spanish/Japanese. With its hardback cover and 300 pages of content it in fact resembles a book more than a magazine. Laying a strong emphasis on design, it aims to replicate the white walls and neutral backround of an art gallery, with no interfering text in its central pages.

The publication is predominatly devoted to photography. Included within its opening pages, however, are a number of essays by renowned writers, philosophers and artists who explore a wide range of viewpoints about the role and the significance of photography. C International Photo Magazine ultimately intends to create an encyclopaedia of photography, one that can be used as a source of references
for years to come.“

Tainted by coal (Project)

Upper Silesia is the principle coalmining region in Poland. For precise observers it offers a broad range of discoveries and experiences, from the bleak landscape to the people who make up the region. I feel a particular affinity to these people and their work. When I heard, at the end of 2001, that women are still employed in heavy labour in Silesian collieries I decided to undertake a photographic project on theme. I began work on the project at the start of 2002 in one of the many Silesian collieries. Here I plunged into an unreal world of work which had hitherto been unkown to me.

The women work in an coal processing plant which is the last stopping point for the coal after it has been brought to the surface. The austere facade of the building hides a multi-storey labyrinth of rooms, countless corridors and seemingly never-ending conveyor belts. Everything here is covered in coal dust and cloaked in a monotonous grey pall of light amidst a deafening noise.

Here the women habe to handle the coal in many processes: from sorting to breaking, washing and sieving, before it is classified and loaded for transport. Even when working conditions have somewhat improved over the years, manual picking and shovelling of coal is still a part of the daily labour of the women workers.

"Tainted by coal" is my homage to these women and their work.

Translation: Roy Kift, published by C International Photo Magazine #9

page 292 (english), page 303 (chinese)

Tainted by coal (Interview)

In captivating black and white photographs Dariusz Kantor remembers the often forgotten contribution of women concerning history and present of mining industry throughout the world. His pictures are a lasting and impressive tribute to the women and their work in coal washeries and separation plants.

"The portrait on the cover - a face covered almost completely by a mask of dust - is immediately recognisable as a woman. The other photographs, however, require closer scrutiny. The photographs were taken in twelve different coal mines in Upper Silesia, Poland. The women, whose faces are tainted by coal, work in a coal-cleaning plant. 'Dariusz Kantor comes from the area himself and although ever since he has lived elsewhere, it would seem that, for his work at least, he keeps returning to the place.' these are the words of Petra Wegmann, Kantor's agent and editor of the book "Von Kohle gezeichnet". Between 2002 and 2004, Kantor produced this series of captivating black and white photographs. 'The authenticitiy of his work is, that it doesn't pass any judgement. It does not reduce the women to the role of victim, the 'heroine of the working classes' or that of the self-sacrificing mother. For Kantor, reality is not a fixed point, but a spectrum. It is left up to the viewer to decide.'

Dariusz Kantor's work balances on the borderline between art and journalism. According to Wegmann, 'he has difficulty himself in qualifying his work as 'art' and prefers to use words like 'documentary ' or 'reportage'. With both feet firmly on the ground, he cuts a quiet, unassuming figure, merely looking for the undemonstrative prose rather than seeking out spectacular effects.

The whole exhibition is composed of 43 photographs. They are beautifully presented in off-white mounts and wooden frames. Sometimes museum visitors will ask why these hard-hitting images of reality are presented in such aesthetically pleasing sourrounds. Kantor explains that this format was chosen partly out of sense of homage to the women and their work. What's more, the contrast only serves to accentuate the reality." (...)

Interview & text: John van der Poel / Rosbeek

Dariusz Kantor, 1967 Zabrze/Upper Silesia. Poland

Dariusz Kantor was born on the 26th of December 1967. He left Poland after finishing his school and professional training, and in 1990 he became a resident of Germany. He discovered his passion for photography at the start of the 1990s.

Kantor is an autodidact. He expresses his personal views in classical photographic forms like reportages, essays and documentations. He worked exclusively in black-and-white using conventional darkroom techniques and processing methods.

The inspiration for most of his themes comes mainly from Poland. Here he is particulary interested in Upper Silesia, which still fascinates him because of its complex diversity.

Translation: Roy Kift, published by C International Photo Magazine #9,
page 292 (english), page 303 (chinese)