Industrial photography – historical documentation and aesthetic creation
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to accompany a group of industrial photographers on a tour of a power station. To be more precise, to a decommissioned unit at Scholven power plant in Gelsenkirchen, my home town.
It hasn’t been for long that industrial plants of the Ruhr area are thought of as assets of cultural heritage. It was mainly the „Internationale Bauausstellung Emscher Park“, responsible for a well-regulated structural transformation at the end of the industrial era, which contributed to a broad awareness for coal mines and steel works to be seen as monuments and recreational locations, the majority of which can be found on the „Route of Industrial Heritage” or, in German, “Route Industriekultur“.
Scholven does not yet fall into the category of industrial monuments. Energy is still being produced here. However, some units at the site have been decommissioned and probably will vanish before long. Having once been Germany’s biggest hard coal fired power plant it still is a remarkable place, even if it is not on the Route of Industrial Heritage.
The lure of the complex must have been the motivation for the photographers when they planned their visit at Scholven power plant. A unique opportunity for the artists to take photos at sites which are not open to the public. A chance for the operator for photographic documentation with high standards. For outsiders, a possibility to take insights into an otherwise inaccessible world. With this, photography creates historical as well as aesthetical values. It is more than just photographic documentation; it opens new perspectives from individual viewpoints. Shame, that the operator of the power plant does not allow such excursions any more, even when this is understandable from the point of safety.
If you are curious: here are some links to the results of the tour, and other works, too.