© John Davies

John Davies: Monkwearmouth, 2003
from the series "Signs of Coal" as part of "Coalfield Stories"
© John Davies


Coalfield Stories

John Davis
, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Simon Norfolk


To coincide with the twentieth anniversary of the end of the national miners strike and the demise of the pits, Photofusion is delighted to present a selection of works from three of the "Coalfield Stories" landscape exhibitions, commissioned by Side Gallery. John Davies, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen and Simon Norfolk have documented the post-industrial landscape of the Durham Coalfield area where the last pit closed in 1993.


John Davies is internationally renowned for the lucidity with which he has tackled the rural and urban landscape through his refined black and white photographs. In 2003, Side commissioned him to revisit sites he had photographed twenty years earlier when he developed "Durham Coalfield" - a landscape survey of the working coalfield. Taking as near as possible the same shot as the original, the resulting exhibition of paired images entitled "Signs of Coal", reveals a transformed landscape.


Having received widespread recognition for "Byker", her seminal portrait of the terrraced Newcastle community published in 1983, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen has continued exploring concerns about community and landscape. In 1998 she began documenting some allotment gardens in Easington threatened by the regeneration work on the East Durham coastline. After the allotments were demolished, some of the ex-miners began to introduce her to the relatively inaccessible beaches upon which they walked every day; "The Coal Coast" documents the terrible beauty of mining's legacy along the limestone cliffs.


This exhibition also welcomes the return of award-winning photographer Simon Norfolk, whose solo show at Photofusion was instrumental in his being short-listed for the Citibank Photography Prize in 2003. In the same year, Side Gallery commissioned him to explore the sites of attempted regeneration and the abandonment that can be found across the county of Durham. Taking its name from a 19th century dictionary of North East mining terms, "Goaf" documents locations of former mining activity and community culture in the Durham Coalfield. A new ski slope, an old music hall, a retail park, public art, the head-quarters of Durham Miners' Association: each photograph carries a dual caption, one literal, one taken from the dictionary.


Side is part of Amber, a film and photography collective that has been engaged with working class and marginalised communities in the North of England since 1969. "Coalfield Stories" initially grew out of the research for Amber's feature film "Like Father". The work has, in turn, fed into the development of its new feature film, "Shooting Magpies", to be released in January 2006.


The three bodies of work in this exhibition were developed as part of Side Gallery's "Coalfield Stories" programme of new photography production and supported by Arts Council England, Durham County Council and Northern Rock Foundation.


Exhibition: 25 November 2005 - 21 January 2006
Opening hours: Tues-Sat 10am - 6pm; Thur 10am - 8pm, Gallery closed: Sun, Mon & Bank Holidays


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