One of the first abandoned industrial places I’ve visited was a potassium mine in Alsace. It was a glorious expedition, full of bewildered sights and cathedral beauty admist the rust. Most of those old mines have been torn down, now that the industry is no longer. Their memories linger on in the stories the Alsacians tell you of their fathers and neighbors who used to work in the mines. Stories of pride and cameraderie. Stories of re-used worker homes. Stories of suicides after the closures. The photo set was called “Sisters of Kali“, and is still available in the gallery. A couple of years ago, shortly before Chernobyl, I went back on another tour. The result is a winter series called “Siblings of Kali”.
It was a cold day in January. The sun was a distant memory somewhere in the sky while the remains of the once proud mine opened up to us through unbarred gates.
First stop: The processing unit. Underground corridors full of tubes with no meaning left to its hesitant visitors. Large looming tanks in green and red.
Atop the staircase, an Escheresque grid construction of delicate steel.
Among the ovens and tubes, icicles decorated the hall.
Beyond the processing hall, a massive control had lost its footing and tried to escape from the room.
We enter another building, where lockers lead the way to the shower area. Bulls glower while signs warn us of wasting hot water. We don’t.
Enter the heart of every surface mine structure: The washing house. In French, it’s called “La salle des pendus” – the hall of the hanged.
A walkway begins further up the stairs: To the left for the clean, to the right for the soiled. It makes no difference today.
Another visitor awaits us in the equipment hall. She plans on staying there for a while.
The setting sun starts painting the buildings in misty white. We say good bye to a dying site.