After the Mines

No matter where you go in Joburg, they’re everywhere. No, not guys selling phone chargers at the traffic lights or advertising signs for penis enlargements. I’m talking about mine dumps, left-overs of the beginnings of the city.

Many of us are so used to seeing these ‘hills’ that we don’t pay them that much attention anymore. After the Mines (Fourthwall Books), a new book by UK photographer, Jason Larkin may change that.

It includes a collection of poignant and sensitive photographs, captured between 2010 and 2013, showing the life that has sprung up around the mine dumps. This is a life that many of us don’t ever get to see. In the process, the book highlights the many environmental and health concerns related to these ‘hills’, the people issues and the process of re-mining and removing them altogether (the latter is happening at the mo). The photos are supported by a thoughtful essay by journalist Mara Kardas-Nelson.

What especially interested me was why Jason, who’s not South African, wanted to do this book. He answered a few questions for me:

What sparked your interest in the mine dumps?
There is an incredibly strong presence on the landscape here, unavoidable, incongruous and more importantly a direct link to a past that has had massive repercussions for the country.

What is your aim with the photos?
I'd like the images to enable a greater understanding and reinvigorate a conversation around these spaces, which for the most part are ignored by most people, especially regarding the very worrying acid mine drainage issues that these dumps are creating.

How has this body of work affected you as someone who isn’t South African?
As an outsider it was a great vehicle to dig deeper into the historical context of the city, giving me a deeper understanding of how and why the city is what it is now. I also feel I understand the complexities to an industry like mining much more, which can often have such a polarised viewpoint among the public.

Here’s a bit about Jason from the Fourthwall site:
Jason Larkin (b.1979, UK) trained as photographer in London and has worked extensively in the Middle East and Africa. He won the Arnold Newman New Portraiture Award in 2011 and in 2013 his publication Cairo Divided was nominated for the Deutsche Börse and Prix Pictet photography awards. He has participated in numerous photography festivals and has exhibited at the Brighton Photo Biennial, the Farnsworth Art Museum in Maine and the Flowers Gallery in London.

After the Mines is published by Fourthwall Books. Headed by creative duo, Bronwyn Law-Viljoen and Oliver Barstow, Fourthwall is actually a pretty cool story too. They produce beautiful South African art and photography books. Go visit them at their space in 44 Stanley!

* Shop and exhibition photos supplied by Fourthwall Books. All the other ones are copyrighted to Jason.

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