robert harding pittman

Exhibition at HeadOn Photo Festival – Sydney, Australia.

Exhibition at HeadOn Photo Festival – Sydney, Australia.

I am very honored and excited to have had my photography project “CoalScapes”, about the human cost of coal mining in Germany, selected for the HeadOn Photo Festival in Sydney. Many thanks to Moshe Rosenzveig, Anna Honan, Anita Schwartz and their team for having selected my work and for all of their hard work in putting this exhibition together in spite of apocalyptic wildfires and the covid pandemic.

About 10 images will be exhibited in a public exhibition on Bondi Beach in Sydney, putting the work in front of the eyes of a large audience. I am always excited to have my work shown in spaces which reach not only art lovers but a general public. This project is also relevant to Australians, as Australia is the second largest exporter of coal in the world. This will be the first time I will have my work shown in the Southern Hemisphere!

Dates: July 4 – August 9, 2020. Bondi Beach – Sydney.
Installation photos by Moshe Rosenzveig.
Link to exhibition.


CoalScapes Synopsis:

When you come home at night, you turn on the light switch, and the light bulb magically glows. We take this for granted. In most parts of the world, we have electricity thanks to a vast infrastructure based on coal.

Although coal gives us electricity, a warm home and jobs, coal-fired power plants are the largest emitters of global CO2. In addition to the tremendous environmental costs of coal mining, all over the world, people are forced to sacrifice their homes, cultures, their health, and at times their lives, for our energy.

CoalScapes shows the human cost of coal mining in Germany. In this one country alone, countless towns have been bulldozed away, with 1000’s of people having to sacrifice their homes to make way for strip-mining. The people portrayed in this project are from the former 750-year-old village of Heuersdorf in Saxony. In these images we see the Keller family, who fought long and hard against the mining company to try to save their village. The family had been in the same house for 350 years. In the end the villagers lost, their community being bulldozed to the ground, for the expansion of an open-pit lignite mine.

The images of Heuersdorf are contrasted with images of abandoned lignite strip-mines in the former East Germany, where all coal has been extracted. These wastelands, devoid of life, were all once verdant forests and centuries old villages, such as Heuersdorf, which were sacrificed to generate electricity for only a few years. Was it worthwhile?

Today, even though the German government plans to phase out coal by 2038, there still are villages which are slated to be demolished and become yet another black hole on the otherwise green map of Germany.

 Is this sacrifice still necessary in the age of the “climate crisis”?