The recent weeks have been a blur with so much looking going on, It is great to look at images never seen by most, with content very rarely seen by anyone but the shear volume of material sometimes becomes overwhelming, just so many images. This is not a complaint, more a problem of how do I show all this work? I have returned to a set of images I found during my first weeks in the archive nearly 12 months ago. In a pile of 6×9 negatives, dated 1951 were a set entitled Ryhope seams.
When I began scanning the material last week, the feeling that I was the only person in the shaft, not a single person in the whole set. In most other images of similar content there is normally a man, even if only to offer a sense of scale. Why were these different? There are small signs of life if the images are inspected but still very little. Had there been an accident? A gas explosion or roof collapse? or maybe something not so sinister, was it a break time or holidays and the photographer had some surveying to do? Either way it has produced some of the most surreal imagery I have seen, this is maybe heightened even more as there is no real context for the images.
With these questions and lack of context my mind began to wander. I remembered an interview with Eric Burdon front man of 60’s band The Animals. During the interview Burdon spoke about how his Father, an electrician at the Raising Sun pit on Tyneside and how he had taken a 12 year old Eric down a shaft during a holiday closure, leaving him to stand alone while his father attended his duties. This was just a ploy to scare him from pit work but It was these 30 minutes of solitude in a shaft had a profound effect on Burdon, leaving the vivid memory of how an empty pit was yet full of vague unfamiliar shapes. Through the initial silence Burdon remembers hearing sounds of timbers and rock yawing creaking but never really knowing what made the sounds or shadows.
When I saw this empty environment I began to get a slight sense of what he must have been feeling but for me, the images will still remain without a real context.
Text: Aaron Guy Images: Copyright NEMIPA