Blast (Where the Earth Bleeds)

Since 2008 I have been making images at Blast Beach on the coast of County Durham. This was in the centre of the infamous “Coal Coast”, and so polluted with spoil that it was used in the opening sequences of the Alien 3 movie.

A local fisherman told me that during the Second World War German pilots used the area as a navigational aid as they came in raiding, as the “beach” was always on fire through the spontaneous combusiton of materials within the huge mounds of coal waste. He went on to say that as a child he never went there, “I was scared, kid’s had died, and it looked like hell”.

Today the beach remains one of the strangest and most disturbing places I have visited, a shifting monument to our environmental follies.

My introduction to the new collection of pictures says, “It’s 20 years since the last colliery closed on this coast. For years it was one of the most densely industrialized areas in Western Europe, and five pits had tipped coal waste onto Durham’s “black beaches”.  At their peak 2½ million tonnes of waste was dumped every year, extending 7km out to sea.

The clean up started in 1997, and the tide now continues the scouring.

At Blast Beach the geology feels confusing, and very little seems natural. Shelves of landfill are covered with coal slurry; the sand is made of pyrites. Strange objects appear on the beach, and rare chemicals form vivid yellow crusts, and blood red pools. Coal litters the beaches, often mixed with scraps of 1950′s clothing, all sorted by the tides. The cliffs are high here, but you are compelled to look down, trying to make sense of the strangeness of it all. In places rocks show the marks of drills and gunpowder, or strange mechanical scratching, violent messages from the past”.

I hope you will take a look here

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